Goldencents won the $100,000 Sham Stakes by 1-1/2 lengths at Santa Anita on Saturday, giving trainer Doug O’Neill a promising 3-year-old on the Triple Crown trail a year after he saddled I’ll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Ridden by Kevin Krigger, Goldencents ran a mile in 1 minute, 36.50 seconds and paid $2.80 as the 2-5 favorite.
”The whole crew has a little swag after I’ll Have Another, so we’re just enjoying the whole ride,” said O’Neill, who was forced to scratch I’ll Have Another because of injury the day before the Belmont Stakes, ending the colt’s attempt to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 34 years.
Den’s Legacy was second. Early pacesetter Manando finished another half-length back in third. Both are trained by Bob Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner.
Dry Summer was fourth, and Dirty Swagg finished last.
In the $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes, Coil wore down pacesetter Ultimate Eagle to win by a head in his final race before being retired to stud.
”That was it,” said Baffert, the winning trainer. ”He’s very healthy right now, but it’s time to send him to stud.”
In the Sham, Krigger said Goldencents was bumped on the inside by Den’s Legacy at the start of the race, when Manando and jockey Martin Garcia went to the lead.
”That made me have to ride a smart race by taking him back and putting him on the outside,” Krigger said. ”He’s always been relaxed, but he was so relaxed that I could ride him confidently from behind, too. He’s doing everything right. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and praying that he stays sound.”
Krigger is following in the footsteps of Mario Gutierrez, who like Krigger, was mostly unknown in the sport when he started riding I’ll Have Another. O’Neill encouraged Krigger to call Goldencents’ owners and make a case for himself as the colt’s regular rider.
”The owners fell in love with him, just like Goldencents has,” O’Neill said. ”The good thing about Kevin is, win, lose or draw, you know you have him for upcoming races. He’s not going to jump around. Some of the higher-standing guys, it’s difficult to have any continuity with a horse. Kevin’s really gotten to know this colt, and he’s done a brilliant job every race.”
Goldencents has three wins in four starts, with his only loss coming to Shanghai Bobby in the Champagne Stakes last fall at Belmont Park. He was coming off a victory in the $1 million Delta Jackpot on Nov. 17, a race in which he led all the way.
The colt is co-owned by Rick Pitino, coach of the Louisville basketball team. Laffit Pincay Jr., who rode Sham to runner-up finishes in the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Preakness behind Secretariat, presented the trophy.
O’Neill said he would consult with Pitino and the colt’s other owners before deciding on Goldencents’ next race.
”If he stays injury-free, we’ll get there,” he said. ”We’re all pumped up.”
Goldencents took over the top spot on the list of Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The top 20 point earners will earn berths in this year’s May 4 race at Churchill Downs.
Goldencents earned 10 points for the Sham victory, giving him 24 points — four ahead of second-place Shanghai Bobby. The top four finishers in the Sham earned qualifying points.