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Las Vegas, NV - Another weekend has passed - that can only mean one thing - the world of graded stakes thoroughbred action has some new victors, some repeat winners and some unexpected standout performances. This week there were five big stakes races around the country with three at Santa Anita Park, one at Gulfstream and one at Aqueduct. The highlight was the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita - a Kentucky Derby points race. Let's break down all the action starting with the Sham.
Three year old Kentucky Derby hopefuls were on display in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita January 5. Odds on favorite, Doug O'Neill trained Goldencents cemented his claim as one of the early colts to watch and gained an important 10 points in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points race with a 1 1/2 length victory over two Bob Baffert trained entries - Den's Legacy who finished second and Manano who finished third. Dry Summer and Dirty Swagg trailed in a field of five that included one scratch, Greeley Awesome.
In his final start before retiring to stud in California, grade I winner, Bob Baffert trained, slight 9-5 favorite Coil outlasted 2-1 second choice Ultimate Eagle by a head following a terrific stretch duel in the Grade 3 $150,000 San Pasqual Stakes Jan. 5 at Santa Anita Park. John Scott who was fourth most recently in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile was third. Tres Borrachos and the Baffert-trained duo of Bank the Eight and Zayat Stable's Jaycito completed the order of finish. Hoorayforhollywood, one of four Baffert entrants in the original field, was scratched along with Key Decision and Golden Itiz.
In the Grade 2 $150,000 Monrovia Stakes Sunday at Santa Anita, 9-10 favorite Mizdirection proved her love once again for the downhill turf track at Santa Anita with a half length win over the speedy Kindle. The win was Mizdirection's fourth in four starts on this track - including last year's Monrovia and the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint back in November. Kindle finished 1 3/4 lengths clear of Givine who finished third. Byrama finished fourth, Broken Dreams was fifth and Curvy Cat was scratched prior to the race Sunday.
In the Grade 3 $100,000 Marshua's River Stakes on Gulfstream turf January 5, Hard Not to Like made a triumphant return from injury and an eight month layoff and posted a half-length victory at 7-1 odds. 5-2 second choice Channel Lady finished second and 2-1 favorite Leading Astray was third. Chokurei, Frontside, 2012 Marshua's River winner Heavenly Landing, Frolic's Revenge, and Affair Dabbler completed the order of finish. Filare L'Oro and Fantasy of Flight were scratched.
Heavy favorite 11-10 Vyjack surged past 41-1 shot Siete de Oros in the final strides to win the Grade 2 $200,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack by a head Jan. 5 and remained undefeated in his career. Siete de Oros was an impressive second while another long shot, 39-1 Amerigo Vespucci came up for third. Long River, Vegas No Show, Notacatbutallama, Mudflats, and James Jingle completed the order of finish.
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