It’s not every day that one sees a Bob Baffert trainee spring a 16-1 surprise, but that’s what happened when Reincarnate posted an upset victory in Sunday’s Sham S. (G3) at Santa Anita.
Baffert saddled three of the five starters in the one-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier, but last-out maiden winner Reincarnate was overlooked by bettors, who preferred the chances of his graded stakes-placed stablemates National Treasure (3-5) and Newgate (5-1). Also drawing support was flashy Del Mar maiden winner Spun Intended (23-10).
But Reincarnate stole the show under a perfect ride from jockey Juan Hernandez. The gray colt dueled with Spun Intended through fast fractions of :22.28, :45.57, and 1:09.55, then had to withstand a late bid from Newgate. Reincarnate fought on with unwavering tenacity down the homestretch to beat his rival by a neck in 1:35.87.
“He kind of waited for the other horses, but he’s still learning how to run,” explained Hernandez. “When he got the lead, he tried to wait for the company, but when he saw the other horse come to me, he saw him and fought back.”
National Treasure settled for third place, beaten a length for first prize after spending the majority of the race boxed in along the inside. There was a 23-length gap back to longshot Packs a Wahlop in fourth place, while Spun Intended pulled up and was vanned off. Co-owner Edge Racing later reported via Twitter that Spun Intended was “back at the barn resting comfortably after suffering a non-life-threatening injury.”
Speed Boat Beach, the morning line second choice, scratched to await a start in the Jan. 29 San Vicente (G3).
A son of champion juvenile and successful young sire Good Magic, Reincarnate started his career on turf and didn’t break his maiden until his fourth start, nabbing a one-mile maiden special weight on Nov. 25 at Del Mar. The Sham marked a notable step forward off Reincarnate’s juvenile form, suggesting he’s making progress as a sophomore.
“It looks like this horse is getting better with every race, the first couple of starts, he was a little green. He always liked to look around,” said Hernandez. “Today, he broke really sharp and actually he surprised me. I had come up with a plan to stay behind the speed, make him relax and make one move, but when the gate opened, plans changed. I saw myself in front, so I just let him run. I felt the fractions were like a hard pace, but he was really comfortable. He’s a really big horse, he has a big stride. Around the three eighths, when the other horse came to me, my horse responded back and he hit the wire first.”
As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Sham awards qualifying points on a 10-4-3-2-1 basis to the top five finishers. But since Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs Inc., his horses are ineligible to earn qualification points, leaving Packs a Wahlop (two points) as the tops points earner from the Sham.
Earlier in the afternoon, Ice Dancing left no doubt about her superiority in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez (G3), a seven-furlong Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifier worth 10-4-3-2-1 points to the top five finishers.
The complexion of the race changed when 4-5 morning line favorite Justique scratched with an elevated temperature, per reporting from Steve Andersen of the Daily Racing Form. Justique’s defection left five fillies to face the starter, and Ice Dancing—the new favorite at odds of 1-2—capitalized with aplomb.
The early pace was hot as Fast and Shiny dueled with Parody through splits of :22.02 and :44.68. Fast and Shiny led into the stretch and maintained her advantage through six furlongs in 1:09.29, but by then Ice Dancing was in full flight under Flavien Prat. Rallying steadily from last place, Ice Dancing took command inside the eighth pole and pulled clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths in the hand-timed clocking of 1:22.78.
“She jumped well out of there, and it felt like the pace was really strong, so I kind of kept myself off of the pace a little bit and it felt like she was traveling well,” said Prat. “She responded well when I asked her to make her move.”
Satin Doll rallied up the rail to edge Fast and Shiny by a head for second place. Parody finished another seven lengths back in fourth place, while Huntingcoco trailed the field. Fast and Shiny, Parody, and Huntingcoco are all Baffert trainees ineligible to earn Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualification points, leaving Ice Dancing and Satin Doll as the only points earners in the Santa Ynez.
As a juvenile, Ice Dancing ran third in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and fourth in the Chandelier (G2) before wiring a one-mile maiden special weight at Del Mar. The daughter of Frosted handled cutting back in trip for the Santa Ynez just fine and is developing into a versatile young stakes star for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.
Following the Santa Ynez, Mandella indicated Ice Dancing could wheel back on short rest for another Road to the Kentucky Oaks qualifier.
“She’s a big strong filly, so the Las Virgenes ([G3] on Jan. 28) is a big possibility,” said Mandella. “More than likely… We’ll have a look.”