If it’s a 3-year-old stakes in California, you can rest assured trainer Bob Baffert has won it quite a few times. The Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park is no exception. But unlike the Los Alamitos Futurity, which he seems to win every year, Baffert's most recent victories in the Grade 3 Sham have come in even years. He was victorious in 2014, 2016, 2018 and then 2020 with Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Authentic, but lost in 2015, 2017, and 2019. That does not bode well for Saturday’s edition, but with Baffert sending out arguably his best 3-year-old, that trend might be due for some revision.
1. Medina Spirit (6-1): One of two Baffert starters, he’s the supposedly weaker half of the entry. He was a sharp debut winner at Los Alamitos but that was only at 5 ½ furlongs and the time was nothing special. His stablemate is much more appealing.
2. Waspirant (15-1): He was tested in Grade 1 company and lost by 10 lengths in the American Pharoah Stakes. He takes off the blinkers and the shorter mile distance should help, but, like Medina Spirit, he shapes up as the “other” runner for his trainer in this stakes.
3. Parnelli (5-2): He’s also trained by John Shirreffs and exits a decisive 5 ¾-length maiden win at Del Mar. He was second in his first three starts and often when a horse finally wins and breaks that string of runner-up finishes, he goes on a roll. All in all, he might be the main threat to the favorite.
4. Uncle Boogie (12-1): Was second last time out in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes, but he was a little more than seven lengths behind the winner. The added distance should help and he’s likely to sneak into the top three at the end but it’s hard to build enthusiasm for his chances to pull off a victory.
5. Life Is Good (2-5): He’s the heavy favorite – and deservedly so. His lone start for Baffert was an ultra-impressive front-running, 9 ½-length maiden win at 6 ½ furlongs and he’s bred to handle two turns. With “Big Money” Mike Smith aboard, he’ll roll to the front and in a small, weak field he’ll cruise to Baffert’s seventh Sham victory.
THE PICK: Life Is Good
LIVE LONGSHOT: Uncle Boogie