EVENLY MATCHED FIELD OF SIX SET FOR GRADE III SHAM STAKES SATURDAY, ROAD TO $1 MILLION SANTA ANITA DERBY STARTS AT FLAT MILE

GRADE II, $200,000 SAN PASQUAL DRAWS FIELD OF SEVEN OLDER HORSES AT 1 1/16 MILES

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 8, 2014)—The road to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby begins on Saturday, as Santa Anita will present the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes at a flat mile, a wide-open affair that has attracted six sophomores, five of which exit maiden special weight victories—including the Kory Owens-trained Top Fortitude, who will again by ridden by Kayla Stra, and Midnight Hawk, owned in-part by former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

Owned and bred in Arizona by the Owens family-owned Triple AAA Ranch, Top Fortitude earned a Sham-best last out Beyer Speed figure of 92 in a 2 1/2 length first-out maiden score going 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.20 at Betfair Hollywood Park Nov. 16.

By Top Hit, Top Fortitude worked a sharp five furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:01.60 on Jan. 3, and should show plenty of speed in his first try around two turns. Should he win, it would make national news inasmuch as the popular Stra, 29, would have a bona fide Derby candidate.

The leading money earner in the Sham field is Life Is a Joy, who comes off a second place finish in the statebred King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood Park Dec. 22. Owned and bred in-part by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the 3-year-old gelding by Globalize won the Charlie Palmer Futurity at Fresno Oct. 5, and he has earnings of $131,330 from a record of 6-3-1-0.

Reddam Racing LLC’s Ontology, a one mile maiden turf winner on Dec. 28, has also been a frequent bank visitor, as he has $109,250 in earnings from a win and three seconds. A Kentucky-bred colt by hot sire Tapit, Ontology was well beaten in two Grade I attempts last fall: The mile and a sixteenth FrontRunner Sept. 28 and the one mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 1.

Trained by Simon Callaghan, Ontology zipped five furlongs in 59.60 at Santa Anita on Dec. 21 and will be making his ninth start on Saturday.

Much like Top Fortitude, Bob Baffert’s Midnight Hawk exits an impressive first-out maiden win. By Midnight Lute and bred in Kentucky by Mike Pegram, Midnight Hawk looked every bit a 6-5 favorite in winning by 6 ¼ lengths going 7 ½ furlongs on Dec. 13 at Hollywood Park.

In addition to Tice and Quenneville, Midnight Hawk is owned by John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., Mike Kitchen and Pegram. He worked a bullet five furlongs in 58.40 on Jan. 6 and could well go favored again with Mike Smith aboard.

Trainer John Sadler’s Kristo has the advantage of breaking his maiden by 6 ¾ lengths at 1 1/16 miles, which he did last out on Oct. 31. Owned by Hronis Racing LLC, the Kentucky-bred colt by Distorted Humor drilled six furlongs in 1:12.80 on Jan. 5, and will be making his fourth career start Saturday.

Doug O’Neill’s I’ll Wrap It Up also comes off a maiden win at 1 1/16 miles, on Dec. 7, and will be “two turning” for the third time in-a-row in the Sham. By Tapit, he’s owned by Daniel Kramer and Westside Rentals.com and will be ridden for the first time by Tyler Baze in what will be his sixth start.

Previously based at Hollywood Park, I’ll Wrap It Up worked five furlongs at Santa Anita on Jan. 4 in 1:01.80.

The complete field for the Sham, to be run as the fifth race on a nine-race card Saturday, with jockeys, in post position order, all horses assigned 118 pounds: Kristo, Rafael Bejarano; I’ll Wrap It Up, Tyler Baze; Life Is a Joy, Corey Nakatani; Ontology, Mario Gutierrez; Top Fortitude, Kayla Stra, and Midnight Hawk, Mike Smith.

HOLLENDORFER PACKING POWERFUL ONE-TWO PUNCH IN GRADE II SAN PASQUAL, TRAINER HAS SPEEDY BLUESKIESNRAINBOWS & TOP CALIFORNIA-BRED ROUSING SERMON SET TO GO 1 1/16 MILES

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer appears to be holding a solid two-card hand as he’ll send out recent Grade III Native Diver winner Blueskiesnrainbows and top Cal-bred Rousing Sermon in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes, which has attracted a field of seven older horses at 1 1/16 miles.

Ridden by Martin Pedroza, Blueskiesnrainbows was an authoritative gate to wire winner of the Native Diver Dec. 14, while Rousing Sermon finished third, beaten a length.

Owned by Bad Boy Racing, LLC and Whizway Farms, Blueskiesnrainbows is an impressive 8-2-3-2 at Santa Anita—which includes a game third place finish to eventual Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby April 7, 2012.

A dedicated front-runner, there’s little doubt 5-year-old “Blue” will have theft on his mind Saturday. Overall, he is 22-6-3-3 with earnings of $549,552.

Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams’ Rousing Sermon, who sat a close third throughout in the Native Diver, could well be taken well off the pace in the San Pasqual by regular rider Rafael Bejarano. The 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit has run some of his best races in this fashion, including a 1 1/16 miles allowance win at Santa Anita last April.

With three wins, a second and a third at Santa Anita, Rousing Sermon is 24-5-5-7 overall, with earnings of $705,842.

Trainer John Shirreffs will send out a fresh commodity in Blingo, who has been idle since winning the 1 1/16 miles I’m A Banker Stakes at Belmont Park Oct. 14. A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Artie Schiller, Blingo failed to make an impact from off the pace in the Grade II San Felipe in March, 2012, but he came back to win the 1 1/8 miles turf La Puente in April of that year. He draws the rail and it would appear he’d be well-suited by a hot early pace. He is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss.

The San Pasqual has also attracted a pair of “Majestics;” Majestic City and Majestic Harbor.

Ron Ellis’ Majestic City was a very impressive gate to wire winner with Edwin Maldonado of the one mile Big Bear Purse Oct. 31, and was subsequently second in the Grade III Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields Nov. 29. Owned by Jeff Bloom’s Bloom Racing Stable LLC, Majestic City should be winging early under Maldonado.

Idle since well beaten in a classified allowance at Churchill Downs May 31, Majestic Harbor, formerly trained by Ellis’ brother-in-law Paul McGee, brings an impressive resume to the San Pasqual and will be saddled by Sean McCarthy, who had the 6-year-old horse by Rockport Harbor for two Southern California starts in the summer of 2012.

Owned by Gallant Stable, Majestic Harbor will make his first start at Santa Anita Saturday. He is 18-4-5-3, with earnings of $213,764.

Winless in his last 10 starts, 5-year-old Drill comes of an even, fourth place run in the Native Diver. California-bred gelding Spud Spivens, away since pressing the pace and tiring to fourth in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup on July 7, 2012, has an extensive work tab for trainer and part-owner Henry Moreno and will be ridden for the first time by Corey Nakatani.

The complete field for the San Pasqual Stakes, to be run as Saturday’s eighth race, with jockeys and post position order all horses assigned 118 pounds: Blingo, Victor Espinoza; Blueskiesnrainbows, Martin Pedroza; Majestic City, Edwin Maldonado; Spud Spivens, Corey Nakatani; Majestic Harbor, Tyler Baze; Rousing Sermon, Rafael Bejarano, and Drill, Mike Smith.

First post time on Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Santa Anita will guarantee $150,000 in each Saturday’s Pick Six pool for the remainder of the meeting.