ARCADIA, Calif. -- There are no stars, or even familiar names, among the nine probable starters for the $150,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita next Saturday. That could change as the Triple Crown trail progresses over the next 60 days.
One thing is for sure: The first-place purse of $90,000 and the distinction of winning the Grade 3 Sham over 1 1/8 miles will greatly enhance one horse's chance of making it to the Kentucky Derby.
As of Friday, the probable starters include Alphie's Bet, Boulder Creek, Kettle River, Nextdoorneighbor, Outlaw Man, Privilaged, Setsuko, The Program, and Wolf Tail. Only Wolf Tail is a stakes winner, having won the Graduation Stakes for statebred sprinters last summer at Del Mar. Five of the probable starters will make their first start in a stakes.
Privilaged was fifth last out in the Gold Rush Stakes over a mile at Golden Gate Fields in December, losing all chance when he reared at the start.
Privilaged has come from near the back of the field in his last two starts. Trainer John Sadler said he wants to try a different strategy in the Sham - taking Privilaged to the lead.
Sadler said Privilaged needs a strong work this weekend to progress to the Sham Stakes.
"He's got to step up," Sadler said. "He's got the ability, but he's been a bit unlucky. I made a few mistakes. He needs to go to the front. I was trying to make him a closer."
The only probable starter with graded stakes experience is The Program, who was fourth in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in December, and has subsequently won an allowance.