It's been a while since Keith Desormeaux developed the likes of Texas Red and Exaggerator from unheralded youngsters into Grade I stakes winners.
But the savvy trainer hopes to return to those glory days and raise the status of an as yet unaccomplished colt in Saturday's Grade III Sham Stakes for three-year-olds at one mile on Santa Anita's main track.
That would be Zimba Warrior, a Florida-bred son of Khozan purchased for a mere $62,500 out of the Ocala Sales. Whether he turns out to be a bargain remains to be seen.
“We're hoping that the stretch out will elevate him to the next level,” Desormeaux said, alluding to the mile of the Sham from the distance of seven furlongs, when he finished third in the Grade III Bob Hope at Del Mar last Nov. 16. Prior to that, Zimba Warrior was third in the restricted Sunny Slope at 6 ½ furlongs after breaking his maiden going 5 ½ furlongs at Fresno.
“He hasn't proven he's in the same league as Texas Red and Exaggerator yet,” Desormeaux admitted. “He's competitive, but he hasn't threated to win, so we're hoping the additional distance will resolve that problem.
“It might seem I develop horses like Texas Red, Exaggerator and Decked Out overnight, but believe me it takes a while. I haven't had one like them lately, and I'm ready to get back on the bandwagon.
“I used to talk about good horses all the time, but they've been scarce lately.”
The field for the Sham, race five of 10 with an 11:30 a.m. first post time: Authentic, Drayden Van Dyke, 8-5; Zimba Warrior, Jose Valdivia Jr., 6-1; Uncaptured Hero, Flavien Prat, 6-1; Azul Coast, Joel Rosario, 5-2; $2,000 supplemental nomination Scoring, Abel Cedillo, 15-1; and Taishan, Aaron Gryder, 5-2.
The Sham is worth 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, four to the runner-up, two to the third-place finisher and one to the fourth.
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