TEN 3-YEAR-OLDS SET TO CONTEST SATURDAY’S GR. III SHAM STAKES

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 24, 2010) – Trainer Mike Machowsky’s Nextdoorneighbor, Bob Baffert’s The Program, Eoin Harty’s Kettle River and Richard Mandella’s Setsuko are among ten 3-year-olds who will attempt to solidify their Triple Crown aspirations Saturday in Santa Anita’s 10th running of the Grade III, $150,000 Sham Stakes.

At 1 1/8 miles, the Sham, a comparative newcomer on the nation’s extensive list of Kentucky Derby preps, already has proven a useful tool in the advancement of promising youngsters. The Sham is run at the same distance as the April 3 Santa Anita Derby.

The Pamplemousse captured last year’s Sham in stakes record time of 1:47.86 and, five weeks later, he was the favorite for the Santa Anita Derby before misfortune struck the morning of the race. The Pamplemousse had to be scratched because of a tendon flare-up.

The year before, trainer Eoin Harty’s Colonel John took the Sham, went on to capture the Santa Anita Derby and entered the Kentucky Derby as the second choice to victorious Big Brown.

Then there was Giacomo in 2005. Giacomo finished third behind D. Wayne Lukas’ Going Wild in the Sham. He was among the also-rans in the Santa Anita Derby, but Giacomo had the foundation to roar from behind while pulling off a 50-1 upset in the mile-and-one-quarter Kentucky Derby.

Any of the entrants in this year’s Sham would need to take a large step forward to be considered a major factor in the Santa Anita Derby, but, as Giacomo would prove two races later, 3-year-olds can be capable of dramatic advancements.

Machowsky already trains a Santa Anita Derby contender in the unbeaten California-bred Caracortado, but he is optimistic about having a pair of runners in the Derby picture.

Nextdoorneighbor signaled his distance readiness by breaking his maiden by four lengths while running 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 4/5 on Jan. 24. A loser of his first two starts sprinting, the Florida-bred son of Lido Palace came back to prepare for the Sham with a blistering work of 1:10 3/5 for six furlongs on Feb. 15. Mike Smith will ride.

Baffert’s The Program, whom he trains for Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, is coming off a pair of solid efforts at 1 1/16 miles, a win and a third. He preceded those races by finishing 1 ½ lengths behind stablemate Lookin At Lucky, the Kentucky Derby Future Book favorite, when fourth in Hollywood Park’s Grade I CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 19.

Darley Stable’s Kettle River, whose sire Congaree won six Grade I stakes, has impressively won back-to-back competitions around two turns after failing to win his sprint debut. Brice Blanc handles the bay colt who defeated third-place The Program in his most recent outing on Jan. 6.

A son of Pleasantly Perfect trained by Richard Mandella for Wertheimer and Frere, Setsuko has raced around two turns in his last five starts with a win, a pair of seconds and a pair of thirds. He is coming off a fast-closing second to Alfarabi when beaten by one-half length over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Jan. 27. Santa Anita’s leading rider Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard Setsuko. He had also been the rider of Nextdoorneighbor.

The complete field for the Sham Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: The Program, Martin Garcia, 118; Kettle River, Brice Blanc, 118; Straightomidnight, Omar Berrio, 116; Outlaw Man, Garrett Gomez, 116; Setsuko, Rafael Bejarano, 116; Wolf Tail, Chantal Sutherland, 116; Viva Macho, Silvio Amador, 116; El Mirage King, Tyler Baze, 116; Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis, 116, and Nextdoorneighbor, Mike Smith, 116.

The Sham is scheduled as the eighth race on a nine-race program with first post at 12:30 p.m.

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