HRN Original Blog:
Dueling Down The Stretch

Shining some light on the Sham

This weekend, California begins it Kentucky Derby prep program with the Sham Stakes. While a Derby winner has yet to emerge from this particular prep, the race has unveiled some very exciting performances. Last year, Tapizar ran away from his foes in this spot, but was injured in his next start. The Pamplemousse, also made his initial mark here, and came dangerously close to making the Derby, but was also injured just before his final prep. Colonel John was your most recent horse to make it to the Derby and also your best place horse, finishing sixth. However he did win the Santa Anita Derby before and the Travers Stakes after the Kentucky Derby.

The 2012 edition of the Sham is highly anticipated because of the three year old debut of one horse, Secret Circle. The race will not only mark his 2012 debut, but his first try beyond the sprint distance of six furlongs. To date, the son of Eddington has started three times, all very impressive, all at the six furlong distance. Pedigree suggests distance, but a speed burning running style does not.

More questions were probably raised during the Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint, where the colt bulled through blistering opening fractions, but slowed down late, nearly getting caught by the European invader Shumoos. However, one has to be realistic. There is a very little chance of any horse trying to go a 20 and change opening quarter in a mile race, and for the record, that type of fraction is almost never seen in racing. What impresses me even more is that the fraction didn’t come over a super souped track, but over a track that had endured buckets of rain earlier that week. At a mile distance, over a much firmer dirt course, one can expect that Secret Circle have an easier time maintaining his speed, than he did at Churchill.

Another point to be noticed is that trainer Bob Baffert has been letting him loose during the mornings. Since he moved to Santa Anita, Secret Circle has had two six furlong bullets, one in an eye popping 1.10.8. This colt is in tip-top shape coming into this race, there can be no doubt about that.

However, though Secret Circle is the one gaining all the headlines, one cannot simply over look impressive maiden winner Hierro, who broke his maiden at Churchill by over five lengths. The son of three time Classic placed Hard Spun, is trained by Steve Asmussen, who also brought Tapizar up for a win here, only a year ago. He too has been working like a monster, working 59.8, 1.12.2, and 47.6 in his last three works.

{Check out the top Kentucky Derby 2012 contenders}

Another impressiving looking colt is Out of Bounds, trained by Eoin Harty. Sired by Discreet Cat, one would be right to suspect that this one may have some distance limitations, but Discreet Cat himself was quite the miler, the distance of this year’s Sham. This one should be sitting back off the pace, so if a duel were to unfold, that proved too much for Secret Circle, there is a good shot Out of Bounds could pick up the pieces.

As you can tell, the field that is lined up for this year’s Sham is by no means short of talent, with many possible finishes. Who among us believes that Secret Circle will strike again with a dominating win, before blowing away the entire Santa Anita prep series? Who thinks Hierro has just found his best stride and will use the Sham as his launching pad? Come on, let’s get some conversations rolling about the beginning of the trail leading to the Kentucky Derby!


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Older Comments about Shining some light on the Sham...

GL to you too.
Horse racing is the most luck dependant gambling I have ever participated in, either as an owner or bettor. As far as betting it runs in streaks as you know. That was a nice pick on the #2 Out of Bounds as I wouldn't have reversed it as I thought the #4 was by far the best.After seeing your remarks I looked a lot closer and loved the bloodlines.I also handicap a lot of races that are interesting with but no intention of betting, it's fun. GL to you.
No money on the GP race, icy, just practicing. I had the place and fourth, not bad out of that huge field. Good handicapping on your part.
Mary- so sorry but I didn't know you bet outside CA this early, I did have the #5 in my ex-tri mix with #6/#2/#3-never thought to put it up because the race was so wide open.Heavenly Landing I threw in because she is 2 for 2 on turf and the race where it says "shifted out" she was just looking for better footing and closed on a very slow pace.Have nice day -GL
Glad I could help you pay off some bills, icy. Nipped at the wire in the Marshua's River. I need much more practice at those f&m turf races. Beware.
6 for 6 on horses you liked and I took a second look at although I had the #2 top heavy in ex on a 2/1 ratio
I got the tip on him from a 15yo girl, icy. I liked his HP win, and today's too, of course.
I took your top pick Mary Z with mine...ty..paid for xmas...ran like his daddy
Yea, it looks like Secret Circle didn't use his speed earlier enough. I thought he'd jump out and be the pace setter and then just hope not to run out of gas down the back. By settling into 2nd, it opened up for Out of Bound to use the "Shumoos strategy" and catch him down the stretch.
I was wrong to doubt Out of Bounds's readiness. He ran one hell of a race.
The smaller field I think helps Hiero as he doesn't have to burn out of the gate to be put into a good path to track down SC on the final stretch. However, I just can't see SC being caught with his recent workouts. I say SC takes it by 2 1/2 lengths over Hiero.
The smaller field I think helps Hiero as he doesn't have to burn out of the gate to be put into a good path to track down SC on the final stretch. However, I just can't see SC being caught with his recent workouts. I say SC takes it by 2 1/2 lengths over Hiero.
Scratch Senor Rain.
senor rain for the trifecta.. he was closing fast in the simulation..
Hierro- 7 minutes later he is NOT scratched- this reallyis a tuff race
Hierro- according to Twin Spires has been scratched
Secret Circle should win the with ease. He can def go a mile. 1m1 1/4 is another story, but for now he should roll against these.
Going to take an extraordinary race by any horse to beat this colt. He still had gas in the tank at CD and could have gone around again without trouble. I love horses out of Dixieland Band Mares even as a great grand sire let alone sired. Going the half in 44 2/5 and still being able to handle schmoos says a lot. Looking for the tri and super here. I still have to look at the form just going from memory so far. #3-#2 look like 2nd, 3rd choice but I'm going to hit the ALL buttom here somewhere in the rear as randomness appears more frequently there.
I see this race falling apart for Secret Circle very easily, especially if he gets locked in a speed dual with Handsome Mike. He's talented enough to pull it off, but this race may go to Hierro in the end.
ajump, he is talented, and I would agree, he'll probably get a slower trip, and the surface does help. However, it sounds like if he does well here he'll ship out, probably to Oaklawn like Baffert did with Lucky and Convayence and The Factor. If that happens I would like to see him take it down a little.

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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred Racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2001. After that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at the now closed Virginia Intermont College, then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010 Laura came to Horse Racing Nation, but soon branched out to other media outlets, such as Lady and the Track,, and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter, while making a return to Horse Racing Nation, where she will once again feature her opinionated columns on the latest in horse racing. 

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