Happy New Year, readers! This weekend features another 10-point prep race for the 2017 Kentucky Derby, the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday afternoon. The road to the Kentucky Oaks continues as well, with the G2 Santa Ynez on Sunday at Santa Anita.
Kicking off the graded stakes action is the G3 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park, held over 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf course. Restricted to newly-turned 3-year-olds, the field is topped by Made You Look and Kitten's Cat, trained by Todd Pletcher and Joe Sharp, respectively. Made You Look is a graded stakes winner, and most recently finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Kitten's Cat did not get into the main field of the Juvenile Turf, but was a strong winner at Santa Anita last out in the Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes on the Breeders' Cup undercard.
Over at Santa Anita on Saturday, the graded stakes kick off with the G3 Las Cienegas Handicap, held over approximately 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf course. A well-matched field of five is led by Prize Exhibit, according to the morning-line odds, but she has not has not been on the board in her last four starts. Chilean-bred Paquita Coqueta is the more likely post-time favorite, shipped to the United States three starts back and a winner last out of an allowance race at Del Mar.
Up next is the G3 Sham, held over a mile on the main track at Santa Anita. For 3-year-olds, the race features 10 points on the Kentucky Derby trail to the winner. Gormley won the G1 Frontrunner, but then had a poor trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and will be looking to rebound off that effort. Bob Baffert has entered American Anthem, winner of his only start thus far. Another interesting candidate is taking a step up in company and trying the dirt for the first time, but the well-traveled Colonel Samsen deserves a look in this spot.
In the G2 San Gabriel Stakes, older horses will traverse 1 1/8 miles over Santa Anita's turf course on Saturday. Ring Weekend leads the field as a possible prep race before heading to Royal Ascot, but there are several other horses in the field who may pose a challenge. Flamboyant would need to revert to his best form, but he seems to like Santa Anita's turf in the early part of the year. Twentytwentyvision will also play a factor, as he has never finished off the board in his 14 career starts.
On Sunday, newly-turned sophomore fillies will compete over seven furlongs on Santa Anita's dirt track in the G2 Santa Ynez Stakes. Unique Bella drew a lot of attention when she broke her maiden at Del Mar, and has been working very well since then. Shane's Girlfriend was very impressive in winning the G3 Delta Downs Princess last out, and a repeat performance should put her on top here. Also in the field is G1 Chandelier winner Noted and Quoted, who most recently finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
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