Saturday’s Sham Stakes at Santa Anita had the look and feel of a major Derby prep.
Goldencents and jockey Kevin Krigger were bumped leaving the gate, steadied off heels going into the first turn and were fully extended to win the year’s first prep on the way to the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 6. Goldencents crossed the wire a 1 ½-length winner in a workman-like manner.
Trained by Doug O’Neill, Goldencents had to contend with two Bob Baffert trainees early, as Baffert’s Den’s Legacy, who drew the rail and was ridden by Garrett Gomez, came out slightly as the gates opened, and Baffert’s Manando, who broke from the outside with Martin Garcia and cut to the rail, causing Krigger to steady off heels while having to settle for second position.
“Today was a great race,” said Krigger. “From the gate, I got a little bump from the one (Den’s Legacy) on the inside, and by then Martin (Garcia, aboard Manando) had already cleared us a little bit. That made me have to ride a smart race by taking him back and putting him on the outside. He’s always been relaxed, but he was so relaxed that I could ride him confidently from behind, too.
“We had a good challenge in the stretch, but by the time we got to the eighth pole, I got him on top of his feet and just said ‘Let’s go,’ and that was it. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and praying that he stays sound.”
Idle since winning the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3) in Louisiana on Nov. 17, Goldencents paid $2.80 to his backers.
“We thought that with Baffert having two horses in the race, one closer (second-place finisher Den’s Legacy) and one speed horse (third-place finisher Manando), we figured Garcia would send really hard,” said O’Neill. “Kevin said he could sense leaving the gate that Garcia was doing that, so he wasn’t going to get caught up in a crazy pace duel…As the waters get deeper, you’ve got to be versatile and I think Goldencents and Kevin showed their versatility today.”
With Manando carving out splits of 23.00, 46.31, 1:10.06 and 1:22.84, Goldencents steadied off Manando’s heels into the Club House turn while racing a length behind the pacesetter and just off the rail. Krigger was able to angle out going to the far turn and got on terms with Manando leaving the quarter pole and was fully extended through the lane.
Owned by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino’s RAP Racing, Glenn Sorgenstein and Joshua Kaplan’s W.C. Racing and David Kenney, Goldencents increased his bankroll to $782,000.
As was announced by Churchill Downs last year, the Sham Stakes generated Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the first four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis. The top 20 point earners will secure their individual berths in this year’s Run for the Roses on May 4.