Colonel Samsen, the Marco Polo of current Triple Crown candidates, will make his seventh start on his fifth different race track when he runs at The Great Race Place in Saturday's Grade III Sham Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile. The stakes-winner is owned by Casner Racing, Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber and Corey Johnsen
The son of 2008 Santa Anita Derby winner Colonel John ran previously at Golden Gate, Del Mar, Kentucky Downs, Presque Isle Downs and Santa Anita, winning his last two, at Del Mar on grass and at Golden Gate on synthetic. The Sham will mark his first race on dirt.
“He doesn't discriminate,” said Eoin Harty, who trained Colonel John. “He's got Diamond Status (top level for frequent fliers of Delta Airlines).
“I had the horse in Chicago, then ran in a $130,000 maiden race at Kentucky Downs. That kind of money would put anybody on a bus (Colonel Samsen finished second). He ran well there so I brought him to Santa Anita, and he ran well here.
“He broke his maiden at Del Mar (Nov. 13), then a stake came up in San Francisco (the Gold Rush on Dec. 3, which he won) and now it's time to try him on dirt in the Sham.”
In other Sham news:
John Shirreffs is optimistic Gormley will perform well when the son of Malibu Moon makes his three-year-old debut in the Sham. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Gormley has not raced since finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last Nov. 5.
“Condition-wise and weather-wise, it's a go,” Shirreffs said. “He's trained very well. He came out of the Breeders' Cup in great shape and has trained well since.
“As to strategy, we'll let Victor (Espinoza) make that decision once the gates open. There's enough speed in the race that maybe he doesn't need the lead; I don't know. He's still kind of new at developing a style. Hopefully, he'll pick a style that works.”
Big Hit goes from a maiden allowance win at Del Mar Nov. 19 to the Sham, a race Phil D'Amato hopes will lead to bigger and better things for the son of Super Saver owned by Gary and Mary West.
“He's a big, good-looking horse and hopefully he's on the improve,” the trainer said of the Kentucky-bred bay. “He has a good head on his shoulders and he had excuses in his first two races, which is why he didn't run well.
“But he put it all together in his last race (winning by 3 ¼ lengths). We're kind of testing the waters going long, but he should be ready to go.”
The field for the Sham, which offers 17 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, 10 to the winner: American Anthem, Mike Smith, 9-5; Term of Art, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Bird Is the Word, Kent Desormeaux, 20-1; Colonel Samsen, Flavien Prat, 12-1; Gormley, Victor Espinoza, 8-5; Big Hit, Santiago Gonzalez, 4-1; and Blabimir, Mario Gutierrez, 12-1.
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