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Jan 16, 2015

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-CANCELLATIONS-SHAM STAKES

By: JOE GIRARDI


               There have been plenty of cancellations over the last few weeks at Aqueduct, frigid temperatures and extreme cold have been given as the reason. The most recent cancellation came on Wednesday January 14th, a day with there was not much wind, it was in the high 20’s but they cancelled. The reason they gave this time was that there were frozen patches on the track. NYRA’s Martin Panza said "We could probably run 2 1/2 hours from now but not now." "I'm going to err on the side of caution w/ everything that's been going on." Also he added "apologies for canceling an hour before post". When he said they were going to err on the side of caution w/ everything that’s been going on he was referencing the breakdowns that have occurred since the inner track has opened. When he says an hour to post, that wouldn’t be correct, it was a half hour to post. A typical response from NYRA. One thing you wouldn’t hear from NYRA was that for a long time now they are not harrowing the track overnight like they did in the past. They fired many employees to save money and the track maintenance was one area. Yes the inner track is a winterized track but if you don’t maintain in the dead of winter in New York of course you are going to have frozen parts of the track. You will never hear NYRA tell you that because as always it is never NYRA’s fault. Where is Chris Kay and his press conferences when it comes to this. They don’t want to be questioned about the lack of maintenance. All that is said is that we are maintaining the track like we have always done in the past. If you look at social media there are many calling for cancellation of the remainder of the winter meet, a new track surface needs to be put down. No it doesn’t, it just needs to be maintained 24 hours a day but NYRA doesn’t want to pay those people. Maybe now they will be forced to go back to maintaining the way they used, all day long especially in the dead of winter.

               Now on to a Kentucky Derby prep race. On Saturday January 10th, Santa Anita hosted a prep race for the Kentucky Derby. The Grade III Sham Stakes is a race for three year olds run over one mile with a purse of $100,000. There was a field of eight horses that went postward with Calculator going off as the odds-on 3-5 favorite. Calculator who hails from the Peter Miller barn was 0 for 4 heading into his last race with two seconds and one third. However, his two second place finishes came in Grade I races both of them behind the highly regarded American Pharoah. He had to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a sore foot and then missed the Los Alamitos Futurity with an illness. After breaking from post 7, he got away a bit awkwardly but quickly recovered getting away in fifth and was caught wide into the first turn. The fractions were set by St. Joe  Bay while under pressure from Pioneerof the West through some solid fractions of 22:4, 46:1, 1:10:2. As they moved around the far turn Calculator started to gain ground and reached the leaders into the lane, taking over into the lane and drawing away to score by more than four lengths. Rock Shandy, another Peter Miller trainee who was making his first start over the dirt closed well through the lane to finish a clear second at 21-1. Pioneerof the West, who was involved in the pace early on, dropped back but then came again to finish third. St. Joe Bay checked in fourth, followed by Papacoolpapacool, Hero Ten All, Unblunted and Rockinatten. The final time of the race was a solid 1:34:4. This was just Calculator’s second start over a dirt surface, a big second back in the Frontrunner back in September and this huge win in the Sham. This improving gray/roan three year old colt, has tactical speed and a good turn of foot. These two traits are very key come the first Saturday in May. The second horse Rock Shandy who finished a solid second in his first try over a conventional dirt surface is well bred and bred for the Derby distance being by Lemon Drop Kid (Belmont Stakes winner) out of a Storm Cat mare. The top four finishers in the Sham Stakes all got points towards getting in the gate for the Kentucky Derby. Calculator got 10 points, Rock Shandy got 4 points, Pioneerof the West picked up 2 points with St. Joe Bay getting 1 point. The Sham Stakes is a part of four prep races at Santa Anita leading to the Derby. The Robert B. Lewis is next on 2-7-15, followed by the San Felipe on 3-7-15 and finally the big prep for the West Coast Horses and where last year’s Derby winner California Chrome got his final win before the Derby, the Santa Anita Derby on 4-4-15. Looks like it will be an exciting winter out west.

                             



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