Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Alex Evers
The 2014 Kentucky Derby is less than four
months away, and the first California prep race for newly-turned
3-year-olds is set for Saturday at Santa Anita. Six sophomores will
go postward in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, with the winner set to earn
10 Kentucky Derby points.
Therefore, it's as good a time as any
to see how the West Coast 3-year-old picture looks. The top spot on
these lists is not in dispute, especially with the retirement of New Year's Day, but once one gets past that imposing presence, the next
several spots are wide-open.
1) Shared Belief
Jerry Hollendorfer has had rotten luck with his Kentucky Derby hopefuls,
but so far, Shared Belief is doing all the right things. He's
3-for-3, has never been challenged, and his most recent work on dirt
was excellent. He's preparing for the Robert Lewis Stakes next month,
and he should be a heavy favorite to take down the 10 Derby points
that will go to that race's winner.
2) Bond Holder
might say I have the Doug O'Neill trainee a few spots too high. My
counter has two parts. Firstly, Bond Holder leads all West Coast
3-year-olds with 11 Kentucky Derby points, and is roughly halfway to
a spot in that race's starting gate already. Secondly, his best races
have come on conventional dirt. Bond Holder became a Grade I winner
last October, when he won the FrontRunner, and his fourth-place
finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was deceptively good. He should
only improve now that he's shipped to Santa Anita for the
A consistent sort,
Hollendorfer's less-hyped trainee hasn't finished worse than third
since his debut. He's also a Grade I winner, but what gives Bond
Holder a slight nod over this son of Bertrando is that Tamarando's
biggest efforts have come on synthetic surfaces. He's Grade I-placed
on dirt, though, and consistency is a big plus this time of year.
It seems like Bob Baffert has an endless string of
talented 3-year-olds who may be ready to take major leaps forward.
Midnight Hawk is the likely favorite in the Sham off of an extremely
impressive win at first asking last month at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Add in back-to-back bullets at Santa Anita since then, and the son of
the speedy Midnight Lute looks very imposing heading into Saturday's
co-feature in Arcadia.
5) Candy Boy
This one's only
problem may be not liking Del Mar. After two off-the-board finishes
there to start his career, he ran second behind Tap It Rich (an
honorable mention for this list) at Santa Anita before breaking his
maiden in Inglewood and running second in the CashCall Futurity. As a
son of Candy Ride, more distance should not be an issue, and he
seemed to get better with each start away from Del Mar.
mentions: Tap It Rich (tons of talent, very immature), Chitu (2-for-2
Baffert trainee, may be best around one turn), Kobe's Back (nightmare
trip in the CashCall)