The first Kentucky Derby prep race of 2018 takes place Saturday with the running of the Grade III Sham at Santa Anita.
The one-mile test for 3-year-olds is set for the fifth race and will have a field of seven go to post.
The horse sure to be, at the least sentimental favorite is McKinzie out of the Bob Baffert barn. The horse is named for the popular late Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie, a long-time friend of Baffert’s.
McKinzie, who will be ridden for third straight time by Mike Smith, won his debut in late October and then came back to finish second in the Los Alamitos Futurity before being put up to first on a disqualification of Solomini, another Baffert runner.
The DQ was somewhat shaky, but did give the horse two wins in as many starts. It will be interesting to see how he comes back here as he has put together a solid series of works for the race.
Mourinho, another runner out of the Baffert barn, figures to also be well bet. Drayden Van Dyke gets the call for the third time in four starts for the horse that is coming off a second-place finish in the Grade III Bob Hope at Del Mar in early November.
The $650,000 purchase won his debut back in September at Santa Anita, then was second in the Speakeasy at Santa Anita in mid-October. In the Bob Hope he appeared to get a perfect trip but didn’t get it done as the favorite.
All Out Blitz is an intriguing runner from Simon Callaghan. The winner of one of three starts, the horse that will be ridden by Tyler Baze is coming off a maiden score in mid-December at Los Al.
A bullet work over four furlongs at Santa Anita on December 29 does make worth taking a long look here.
Jerry Hollendorfer will send out Shivermetimbers, another that broke maiden in his last start. Flavian Prat gets the ride for the first time on a horse that was third to McKinzie two back.
A possible value play here could be City Plan, a Eoin Harty runner. Tyler Conner gets the call for the second straight race and you should get double digit odds here.
After winning his second start, the horse never got going in the Grade I Front Runner, finishing a badly beaten 7th, losing by over 26-lengths. But in his next start, City Plan came back and took Gold Rush at Golden Gate Fields at 26-1, coming from off the pace.
It does appear to be a tall order here, but if your looking for a value in a bunch of young horses this may be a spot to look.
My Boy Jack (Keith Desormeaux trainer, Kent Desormeaux jockey) and Here Is Happy (Craig Lewis, Joe Talamo) round out the field.
My Boy Jack makes only his second start on the main track with five other efforts coming on the turf. Here Is Happy was beaten 19-lengths in the Bob Hope.
By Dennis Miller