Chicago Style to race Saturday in Santa Anita’s Grade II $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes.
Chicago Style to race Saturday in Santa Anita’s Grade II $200,000 San Gabriel Stakes.|Santa Anita Racetrack

Horse Racing: Saturday’s Big Races at Santa Anita and Gulfstream

Is Coliseum roamin’ for a stakes win in the Sham?

Chris Garrity

Hello, and welcome to the first edition of Garrity’s Graded Stakes, where we will take a gander at races all over the country, picking a few that are noteworthy either for sporting or wagering purposes (but mostly wagering. We’re all about the gambling here). If there’s anything you’d like to see in this space, please drop us a line: we want this column to be interactive, in the same way that disgruntled bettors harangue losing jockeys, so don’t be afraid to roll up your program and hurl it this way!

National stakes races are in a bit of a lull this weekend, a respite between the flurry of Opening Day at Santa Anita and the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in three weeks. The end of January is also when the Kentucky Derby trail starts heating up, but even though we’re in a relatively quiet period in the racing calendar – call it the Railbird’s Respite -- don’t fret, we’ve found some stuff that’s worth paying attention to.

The first is the Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita (Saturday, Race 9, Post Time 7:04 pm Eastern / 4:04 pm Pacific). The hot favorite here is Coliseum, who won his debut at Del Mar very impressively, by an easy half-dozen under a hand ride. With Bob Baffert training this regally-bred (Tapit) Godolphin homebred, he might have the juice to go all the way. We’ll find out a lot more as he takes on six seemingly overmatched colts in his first race around two turns. His current Kentucky Derby future-books odds are 30-1, and if he wins the Sham as impressively as he won his Del Mar maiden race, you can forget about getting anything close to that on Sunday – he’ll be half that price, or less. One could do worse than taking a Baffert-Godolphin colt at 30-1 in a Derby future bet.

The supporting stakes race at Santa Anita tomorrow is the San Gabriel, a 9-furlong grass race for older horses. The field came up deep and competitive: there are 10 entrants who appear to be pretty evenly matched. Tom Proctor’s Chicago Style is the tepid 3-1 morning line favorite, with Richie Baltas’s Next Shares the 7/2 second choice, and late-running Liam the Charmer, trained by Mike McCarthy, rounding at the top three at 4-1.

The top three contenders are all qualified, but we are going to take a stab with Platinum Warrior. He’s a colt who just turned 4, and who showed promise in Ireland last spring.  His Irish connections brought him to Chicago last summer, where he ran a respectable 4th in the Grade I Secretariat, but his next two races were duds, a 5th in the Twilight Derby at Santa Anita in December, and a dull 10th in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on December 1.

But we think he’s due for wakeup: trainer John Sadler adds blinkers, and that, combined with having acclimated to California, means he could be in line to improve, and he only needs a modest improvement to be a threat to win the race. Is he a cinch? No. But he’s 15-1 on the morning line, and he may go off even higher – we think Platinum Warrior has a big shot at a big price.

It's a mixed bag of stakes races at Gulfstream Park Saturday, and while perusing the past performances, one race caught our eye: it’s the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, the 10th race on the card. It’s a one-turn dirt mile for newly-minted three-year-olds, and the heavy favorite is Shug McCaughey’s Code of Honor, who’s coming off a runner-up finish in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont in October, in which he earned a speed figure that put him among last year’s fastest two-year-olds.

But we like the outside horse, No. 6, Mihos: the race is loaded with early speed, and being a one-turn race, the pace figures to be more like a sprint than a route. That means fast – so fast, in fact, that we think the pace will set the race up for a late-runner, and that looks like Mihos. Moreover, he figures to get a perfect trip from the outside post, so we’ll take the 7/2 morning line on trainer Jimmy Jerkins and Mihos.

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