Road to Derby: Baffert Has Tough Duo in Sham

A field of nine line up in Saturday's Sham (G3) at Santa Anita with 17 Derby points up for grabs (Photo credit: © Cheryl Quigley | Dreamstime.com)

A field of nine line up in Saturday’s Sham (G3) at Santa Anita with 17 Derby points up for grabs (Photo credit: © Cheryl Quigley | Dreamstime.com)

All eyes will be on California Chrome on Saturday at Santa Anita as the 2014 Horse of the Year makes his first start off a layoff, but trainer Bob Baffert looks loaded with a pair of contenders earlier on the card in the $100,000 Sham (G3).

The Sham is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, with 10-4-2-1 points up for grabs for entry into the Run for the Roses.

Baffert’s American Pharoah won the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and will soon win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, and now the silver-haired trainer is looking for a replacement for this year’s Derby run.

He starts a pair in the Sham, recent maiden winner Let’s Meet in Rio (6-1) and Collected (3-1), who makes his first start on dirt after running second in the Cecil B. DeMille (G3) at Del Mar in his last outing.

Baffert has won the Sham three times, with Midnight Hawk in 2014, Bob and John in 2006 and with Wild and Wise in 2001.

Later on the card California Chrome will make his first start since a runner up finish in last year’s Dubai World Cup (G1) as he is the 4-5 morning line favorite in the $200,000 San Pasqual (G2).

The colt earned plenty of frequent flyer miles last year, but injuries knocked him out of a race at Royal Ascot, the Arlington Million (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

The Art Sherman trainee has been working smartly for his return, and while he got a break when Baffert elected to skip the race with Dortmund, he still faces a couple of tough foes.

Hoppertunity (5-2) is coming off a game second in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs and Hard Aces (8-1) won last year’s Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), but has been beaten double digit lengths in three starts since.

My Best Plays Report for Saturday will include selections and analysis for the stakes action from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita.

Let’s head out to Santa Anita for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

  SAlogo

Santa Anita Race 6 The Sham (G3) Post time 3:00 PT

3 Let’s Meet in Rio   6-1

9 Collected   3-1

7 I’malreadythere   5-1

2 Dressed in Hermes   7-2

Let’s Meet in Rio faces winners for the first time here after a good looking maiden score at Los Al in his third career start. The colt stalked the early pace and came with a good four wide move to get up for the win. He comes back with Lasix added for the Bob Baffert barn that won this race in 2014 with Midnight Hawk. The colt has put in a couple of sharp works since his maiden win and looks headed in the right direction form wise.

Collected is also sent out by Baffert and will be making his first start on dirt. The colt broke his maiden in his debut on the grass here going 6 ½ downhill and then had the lead heading for home and got run down by Dressed in Hermes. The colt has worked sharply over the main track here and pedigree wise should have no problem on the surface switch. He is by City Zip out of a Johannesburg mare that has dropped one other winner. Baffert is 17% winners (with a +ROI) moving runners from turf to dirt.

I’malreadythere broke his maiden on turf but has run pretty well on dirt in third place finishes in the Bob Hope (G3) at seven furlongs and the Los Alamitos Futurity (HG1) going long. Last out he was no match for Mor Spirit and Toews On Ice, but those appear more talented than the group he faces here.

Wagering:

WIN: #3 to win at 4-1 or better.

EXACTA: 3,9 / 2,3,7,9

TRIFECTA: 3,9 / 2,3,7,9 / 1,2,3,7,9

 

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