With only a field of five newly turned 3-year-olds signed on, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert will saddle a pair of imposing runners in Saturday's GIII Sham S. going a two-turn mile at Santa Anita.
Rockefeller (Medaglia d'Oro) returns to the West Coast for Baffert after securing a front-running victory in Belmont's one-turn mile GIII Nashua S. Nov. 7. The $750,000 KEESEP yearling was previously fourth behind his unbeaten GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile-winning stablemate Corniche (Quality Road) in the GI American Pharoah S. Oct 1. Rockefeller is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Sham.
Baffert will also tighten the girth on sharp six-furlong Del Mar Nov. 28 debut winner Newgrange (Violence). The highly regarded second-place finisher that day Got Thunder (Arrogate) returns to action at Santa Anita Friday evening.
Baffert's most recent of seven Sham winners include: MGISW McKinzie (Street Sense) (2018), Horse of the Year Authentic (Into Mischief) (2020) and GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Life Is Good (Into Mischief) (2021).
A multiple stakes winner on turf and most recently a close third with a rough trip in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 5, Mackinnon (American Pharoah) returns to dirt. The Del Mar Juvenile Turf S. Sept. 6 and Zuma Beach S. Oct. 3 winner was a well-beaten fourth in his lone prior try on dirt on debut going 4 1/2 furlongs in Arcadia May 9.
A qualifying race for the 2022 GI Kentucky Derby, excluding horses trained by Baffert, the Sham winner will receive 10 qualifying points, with four to second, two to third and one to the fourth-place finisher. Churchill Downs banned Baffert for two years following the well-documented corticosteroid betamethasone positive of the late Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit (Protonico).