Equibase Analysis: Parnelli Poised For Upset In Sham Stakes

Five horses will line up for Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park, one of the first Road to the Derby points races of the New Year. Bob Baffert, who won the race last year with Authentic, saddles a pair in Life is Good and Medina Spirit, both of which are making their second career starts and won their debut efforts convincingly. Similarly, trainer John Shirreffs saddles last out maiden winner Parnelli and G1 American Pharoah Stakes fourth place finisher Waspirant, who broke his maiden prior to that. Uncle Boogie rounds out the field, coming into the race off a second place finish in the G3 Bob Hope Stakes.

With only five entered, this kind or race will be one in which tactics are everything. Additionally, with three of the five (Life is Good, Medina Spirit and Uncle Boogie) stretching out in distance and trying two turns for the first time, the pace could be faster than average. Life is Good earned the best Equibase Speed Figure in the field, 106, winning his one and only race by nine lengths leading from start to finish. However, he ran the first six furlongs in :44.8 which, if repeated in the Sham likely means he would be vulnerable to being passed late.

Parnelli led from the start and through the opening half-mile in his first two races at a mile, missing by a neck in the latter of the two races with a very strong 105 figure on par with Life is Good. Then in his most recent start, Parnelli relaxed in third in the early stages, about one and one-half lengths from the leader, before drawing off to win by nearly six lengths. Therefore it stands to reason Parnelli might be the one closest to Life is Good in the early stages and if indeed that colt goes too fast early, Parnelli is the one to pass Life is Good and win the Sham Stakes.

Medina Spirit earned a 99 figure winning his debut three weeks ago, at the distance of five and one-half furlongs. Although improvement can be expected off the experience of that debut, it may be a lot to ask to stretch out two and one-half furlongs (more than a quarter mile) and run as well compared to horses with experience at the distance like Parnelli or a horse like Life is Good who also can improve and who earned a figure seven points higher in his debut.

Uncle Boogie won his debut at five and one-half furlongs in October, as impressively as either Medina Spirit or Life is Good, but only earned a 79 figure. However, he improved to 84 in his second start (when the runner-up) then repeated that 84 figure effort when rallying from sixth to second in the Bob Hope Stakes in mid-November. Likely to be last of the five in the early stages, if the early pace is contested and much faster than average, Uncle Boogie could be passing them all for the upset win.

Waspirant rounds out the field, having won at this mile trip in August in his second career start with an 81 figure, then a non-threatening fourth in the American Pharoah Stakes at the end of September. It’s a tough question to ask a horse to come back off three months in a route against horses who have shown to be faster and which have run much more recently.

Win Contenders, in preference order:
Parnelli
Life is Good

Sham Stakes – Grade 3
Race 8 at Santa Anita
Saturday, January 2, 2021 – Post Time 7 PM E.T.
One Mile
3-Year-Olds
Purse: $100,000

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