By Alan Carasso
Bob Baffert supplies two-thirds of the field for Sunday's GIII Sham S. at Santa Anita, but he is no slam dunk to walk away with a record-extending ninth renewal of the event, given the imposing presence of 'TDN Rising Star' Spun Intended (Hard Spun).
The chestnut had a bit of buzz about him ahead of his Oct. 30 debut over 6 1/2 furlongs of this main track, and he nearly overcame a slow start and wide trip to run Fort Warren (Curlin) to a half-length, a performance that was also deemed 'Rising Star'-worthy. Pounded down to 4-5 over the same trip at Del Mar Nov. 26, the $100,000 Keeneland September yearling and $125,000 OBS March bargain made light work of eight other rivals, graduating by a widening 6 1/2 lengths. Hall of Famer Mike Smith sticks around for this first two-turn voyage.
The task at hand certainly is not an easy one, as Spun Intended hooks GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile third National Treasure (Quality Road) in his sophomore bow. Having defeated future GII Los Alamitos Futurity winner Practical Move (Practical Joke) into third on his Sept. 3 unveiling at Del Mar, the $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga grad found only stablemate and 'TDN Rising Star' Cave Rock (Arrogate) too strong in the GI American Pharoah S. next time out and was beaten under four lengths behind likely champion Forte (Violence) in the Juvenile. The blinkers that went on for that try come off Sunday.
The Baffert shedrow is also set to be represented by the rail-drawn 'Rising Star' and recent GIII Bob Hope S. runner-up Newgate (Into Mischief); Speed Boat Beach (Bayern), who Beyered 104 when debuting on dirt at the seaside oval Sept. 10 and who exits a game victory in the grassy GIII Cecil B. DeMille S. Dec. 4; and Reincarnate (Good Magic), who broke his maiden going two turns at Del Mar Nov. 25.
The Sham field is completed by Packs a Wahlop (Creative Cause), a two-time graded winner on the turf.