While the other Derby prep race on Saturday, the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream, likely didn’t produce any major players on the Derby trail, the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita produced a spectacular early-season prep from for two very promising colts. Gormley, a Grade 1 winner from 2016, just nosed out American Anthem, making his stakes debut.
Fractions – 22.54, 45.46, 1:10.13, 1:35.89
Winning Beyer – 94
Winning Margin – nose
This was a tremendous race, with American Anthem (#1) and Gormley (#5) throwing it down early through solid fractions and nobody else making up any ground at all.
The Pace – The pace was legitimate and that nobody made up any ground was clearly a product of the two pace horses being the two best in the race. There was only one other dirt route on the card, the off-the-turf San Gabriel (G2) and the pace here in the Sham was 1.71 seconds faster to the half mile.
The Winner – Gormley won the Frontrunner (G1) last year and was one of the favorites in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, where he was rated off the pace and didn’t factor. John Sherrifs had him much sharper for this race, and he needed to be. A less-than-sharp Gormley leaves American Anthem all alone on the front end.
Gormley ran well, chasing and finishing, but I do think that if you flipped the post positions, and let American Anthem track from the outside, that the actual result would have flipped. No matter, these are two nice horses. Still, considering his best win was loping on a slow pace, you had to be impressed at Gormley’s chase and finish, especially running down a legitimate rival in this race.
The Others – American Anthem was favored after a big win at Del Mar in his debut. He did come from off the pace in that race. Here, Mike Smith put him on the lead through solid fractions and he was just run down late. He ran very well and is certainly one of several Derby-trail players for Bob Baffert.
Big Hit was third, albeit 13 lengths out of second place. He was all in on the turn and still nobody was able to pass him.
Overall Take – This was the best Derby prep run since Classic Empire’s Breeders Cup Juvenile win over the now-retired Not This Time. We’ll be seeing more from both American Anthem and Gormley in the coming months on the road to Louisville.