Unmasking the Authenticity of the Sham Stakes: The Real Deal for Derby Contenders

Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park: A Legitimate Kentucky Derby Prep

When it comes to Kentucky Derby prep races, the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park stands out. Not only does it offer valuable Derby qualifying points, but it has also recently produced two Derby champions. This year’s Sham Stakes, a one-mile contest, brings excitement and intrigue to the Derby trail.

Recent Derby Champs: Authentic and Medina Spirit

The last two winners of the Kentucky Derby, Authentic in 2020 and Medina Spirit in 2021, both emerged from the Sham Stakes. This historical connection adds weight and significance to the race, as it has proven to be a stepping stone to success on the biggest stage of American horse racing.

Mackinnon Horse

The previous edition of the Sham Stakes saw Medina Spirit, a colt by the late Protonico, finish second behind Life Is Good. Although Life Is Good couldn’t make it to the Derby due to an ankle injury, he showcased his immense talent by winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, leaving spectators in awe.

A Competitive Field with an Interesting Twist

This year’s Sham Stakes brings together a field of five promising colts. However, due to Bob Baffert’s suspension from Churchill Downs, his entrants Newgrange and Rockefeller are ineligible for Derby points. Despite this setback, we can expect a thrilling competition between the remaining contenders: Mackinnon, Degree of Risk, and Oviatt Class.

Mackinnon and Oviatt Class

Newgrange: A Horse with Potential

Owned by several prominent figures, including Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, Newgrange enters the Sham Stakes with only one start to his name. His impressive debut victory at Del Mar demonstrates his potential. Trainer Bob Baffert’s decision to run him in this race indicates confidence in the colt’s ability. With jockey John Velazquez in the irons, Newgrange possesses both value and promise.

Rockefeller: Baffert’s Reliable Colt

Rockefeller, another talented runner from Bob Baffert’s barn, has already proven his ability with two wins out of three starts. Although he missed the board in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes, he rebounded with a victory in the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes. Rockefeller’s early speed and consistency make him a contender to watch in the Sham Stakes.

Mackinnon and Oviatt Class: Turf Expats Testing the Dirt

Two intriguing contenders in this year’s Sham Stakes are Mackinnon and Oviatt Class, both making their dirt debut. Mackinnon, owned by Erik Johnson and named after his Colorado Avalanche teammate Nathan MacKinnon, has already achieved success on turf. His victories in the Zuma Beach Stakes and Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes showcase his talent. Trainer Doug O’Neill has been preparing Mackinnon for the dirt with dedicated workouts, making him an appealing choice for bettors.

Oviatt Class, known for his late-closing style, has been a popular pick among racing enthusiasts. While his record includes a maiden-breaking victory and respectable finishes in graded stakes races, he has yet to deliver on his full potential. However, trainer Keith Desormeaux remains optimistic about his colt’s future and sees the Sham Stakes as an opportunity for a fresh start.

Sham Stakes Overview and Contenders

Here’s a quick overview of the contenders in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes:

  • Mackinnon (3/1): Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Juan Hernandez, Mackinnon brings his turf success to the dirt. With strong workouts and a solid record, he offers great value.
  • Oviatt Class (7/2): Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Oviatt Class has shown promise but hasn’t fully lived up to expectations. His closing style could make him a factor.
  • Newgrange (2/1): Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by John Velazquez, Newgrange has potential based on his maiden-breaking debut. Baffert’s decision to enter him in this race speaks volumes.
  • Rockefeller (8/5): Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Flavien Prat, Rockefeller has been consistent and possesses early speed. He aims to capitalize on his previous successes.
  • Degree of Risk (12/1): Trained by Eoin Harty and ridden by Umberto Rispoli, Degree of Risk transitions from turf to dirt. While he shows potential, his dirt workouts have been unimpressive.


The Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park brings together a small but competitive field of colts seeking Derby points and a chance to make their mark on the Derby trail. Each horse possesses unique qualities and aspirations, making this race an exciting spectacle for racing enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can horses earn Derby qualifying points in the Sham Stakes?

No, horses trained by Bob Baffert, including Newgrange and Rockefeller, are ineligible for Derby points due to Baffert’s suspension from Churchill Downs.

2. What makes the Sham Stakes significant?

The Sham Stakes has produced the last two Kentucky Derby champions: Authentic in 2020 and Medina Spirit in 2021. Its historical connection to Derby success adds prestige and attention to the race.

3. How is Mackinnon adapting to the dirt?

Mackinnon, a turf specialist, has been diligently preparing for his dirt debut with trainer Doug O’Neill. Strong workouts and a successful turf record indicate that Mackinnon could excel on the dirt surface.

4. What sets Oviatt Class apart?

Oviatt Class’s late-closing style and his strong maiden-breaking performance generate intrigue around the colt. While he hasn’t consistently delivered as expected, trainer Keith Desormeaux remains optimistic about his future.

5. Which horse offers the best value in the Sham Stakes?

Newgrange, with only one start but guided by esteemed jockey John Velazquez, presents an intriguing value proposition. Trainer Bob Baffert’s decision to enter him in this competitive race indicates confidence in his abilities.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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