Top Win Contenders in 2021 Sham Stakes

Parnelli enters Saturday’s Sham Stakes off of a 5 ¾-length win in a maiden race at Del Mar on Nov. 28. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Five horses line up for the $100,000, Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, one of the first Road to the Kentucky Derby points races of the New Year. Bob Baffert, who won the race last year with Authentic, saddles a pair in Life Is Good and Medina Spirit, both of whom are making their second career starts and won their debut efforts convincingly. Similarly, trainer John Shirreffs saddles last-out maiden winner Parnelli and Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes fourth-place finisher Waspirant, who broke his maiden prior to that start. Uncle Boogie rounds out the field, coming into the race off a second place finish in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes.

Analysis and contenders:

With only five entered, this kind or race will be one in which tactics are everything. Additionally, with three of the five (Life Is Good, Medina Spirit and Uncle Boogie) all stretching out in distance and trying two turns for the first time, the pace could be faster than average. Life Is Good earned the best Equibase Speed Figure in the field, 106, winning his one and only race by 9 ½ lengths leading from start to finish. However, he ran the first six furlongs in 44.8 which, if repeated in the Sham likely means he would be vulnerable to being passed late. Parnelli led from the start and through the opening half-mile in his first two races at a mile, missing by a neck in the latter of the two races with a very strong 105 figure, which is on par with Life Is Good. Then in his most recent start, Parnelli relaxed in third in the early stages, about 1 ½ lengths behind the leader, before drawing off to win by nearly six lengths. Therefore, it stands to reason Parnelli might be the one closest to Life Is Good in the early stages and if indeed that colt goes too fast early, Parnelli will be the one to pass Life Is Good and win the Sham Stakes.

Medina Spirit earned a 99 figure winning his debut three weeks ago at the distance of 5 ½ furlongs. Although improvement can be expected off the experience of that debut, it may be a lot to ask to stretch out another 2 ½ furlongs (more than a quarter mile) and run as well compared to horses with experience at the distance like Parnelli or a horse like Life Is Good who also can improve and who earned a figure seven points higher than Medina Spirit in his debut.

Uncle Boogie won his debut in a 5 ½ furlong race in October, as impressively as either Medina Spirit or Life Is Good, but he only earned a 79 figure. However, he improved to 84 in his second start (when the runner-up) and then repeated that 84 figure effort when rallying from sixth to second in the Bob Hope Stakes in mid-November. Likely to be last of the five in the early stages, if the early pace is contested and much faster than average, Uncle Boogie could be passing them all for the upset win.

Waspirant rounds out the field, having won at this mile trip in August in his second career start with an 81 figure, and then finishing a non-threatening fourth in the American Pharoah Stakes at the end of September. It’s a tough question to ask a horse to come back off three months in a route against horses who have shown to be faster and which have run much more recently.

Win Contenders, in preference order:


Life Is Good

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