2022 Kentucky Derby Preview Series – The Grade 3 Sham – By Eric Solomon

Santa Anita Park Saturday 1/1/21: The Grade 3 Sham Stakes (Race 7)

17 Total Derby points (10/4/2/1)

1- Mackinnon: Doug O’Neill opted to run this son of American Pharoah here on the main track, instead of waiting for the Eddie Logan on the grass tomorrow. We know he’s a good turf horse, winning three races and finishing on the board two other times on the lawn. Two of his three wins came in stakes company on the lawn and he was a fast closing third behind Modern Games and Tiz the Bomb in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his most recent start. From a pedigree standpoint, his sire, American Pharoah, we know was a Triple Crown winner, and his dam was graded stakes placed on the dirt, so there’s reason to believe that he can compete on this surface. The question is whether or not he’ll be as effective as he is on the grass. I like his progression on the turf and I am in the camp that believes he can have success on the dirt.

2 – Oviatt Class: It’s only a matter of time until you hear someone announce that this is their Belmont horse, because he’s a closer that’s been coming up short. He finished 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after breaking slowly. The scratch of Jack Christopher in that race, totally changed the pace scenario, thus limiting his chances that day. He came within a little more than three lengths of Corniche in the Grade 1 American Pharoah back in October, but he hasn’t really shown that he’s taken that necessary step forward yet. I think he’s up against it from a pace standpoint in this small field as well. 

3 – Newgrange: This is the first of two running for Bob Baffert, and at the moment, his horses aren’t eligible to earn Derby Points. This son of Violence was very professional when winning his debut at Del Mar at the end of their meet in November. Johnny Velasquez has gotten off to a red hot start while wintering in Southern California for the first time in his career. He’s winning at a 42% clip on Baffert’s horses on this track and 44% overall. I think he’s definitely live in here when facing winners for the first time. 

4 – Rockefeller: He took his show on the road, traveling cross-country to capture the Grade 3 Nashua going a one turn mile at Belmont in his most recent start. Runner up, Cooke Creek goes in the Jerome earlier in the day, and a win from him would certainly flatter this son of Medaglia d’Oro. His dam was best at one turn though, so I’m not sure how high his ceiling is at two turns. He definitely has a shot, but as the favorite, I think the value lies elsewhere in this small field. 

5 – Degree of Risk – This Godolphin runner for Eoin Harty makes his 7th career start today and his first on a traditional dirt course. He’s run well on the turf and synthetic, and he might be a prime candidate for the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate next month. I don’t see him stacking up with some of the others in here today though. 

The Verdict – Top Picks: 1-3-4

As of now, 10 Bob Baffert horses, including both Newgrange and Rockefeller are available to place a Derby Future wager on in Vegas sportsbooks. This is in spite of the fact that at the moment, a Bob Baffert trained horse is not eligible to enter the Derby or accrue Derby Points in these Derby Prep races. Not many dominoes have fallen yet for his major horses, and there is still that chance that some powers that be at Churchill may be swayed (or forced) to allow his horses to run. While all that hangs in the balance, I won’t be making any future wagers on any of Baffert’s horses at the moment. I’m not nearly as big of a believer in Oviatt Class as many seem to be, and I’m having trouble finding a line on Mackinnon at the moment. In terms of this race, I think Mackinnon has the experience and the pedigree to transfer his form to the main track. I’ll use Newgrange there as well, going only two deep in the multi-race bets on this stakes loaded card at Santa Anita.

I’ll be previewing some of these Derby Points races this here on the ITM Blog, along with posting some updates and thoughts from time to time on Twitter @EricSolomon718. Feel free to reach out!

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