2023 Jerome Stakes & Sham Odds and Predictions

Kentucky Derby contenders are in the spotlight on both sides of the country this weekend, with G2-placed Arctic Arrogance leading the line in the ungraded 2023 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, and G1-placed National Treasure spearheading a four-strong contingent from trainer Bob Baffert in the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday. Both races offer ten ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ points to the winner, although Baffert’s horses are not permitted to collect them.

Jerome Stakes

Ungraded, $150,000, 1m dirt, 3yo, Aqueduct, Saturday 3.16pm ET

We take another step on the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ almost every week now, and the New York circuit is centre stage on Saturday with the 2023 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, which offers qualifying points on a 10-4-3-2-1 basis.

The morning-line choice Arctic Arrogance (8-5) already has four RTKD points in the bag following his sparkling effort in the G2 Remsen here over a mile-eighth on a sloppy surface last month, when he broke on top and tried to take them all the way. He was caught in mid-stretch but didn’t quit and was only beaten a half-length, and there was wide daylight – more than 11 lengths – back to the third horse.

That’s almost always a signifier of two class individuals and Arctic Arrogance, who has never been out of the first two in four starts, also running out an easy winner of a stakes over course and distance in October, sets a high standard here. He figures to be the pace.

His barnmate Valenzan Day (10-1) romped in a starter optional claimer here over seven furlongs last time, but is fully exposed after eight starts and has already come up short at stakes level. Another with an eight-race resume is General Banker (8-1), who took a long time to get off the mark but eventually managed it in a state-bred stakes here over seven furlongs, blitzing the field by eight and a half lengths. That’s good but this requires a lot more.

At the other end of the scale is Neural Network (7-2), an unknown quantity who gets a swift class hike after impressing on debut here over seven furlongs, clearing away to win by five lengths. The runner-up is still a maiden, though, which knocks confidence in the Chad Brown-trained colt.

Keeneland sprint maiden winner Lugan Knight (4-1) was only third next time out but it was a much better performance, getting within a length and a half of subsequent impressive stakes winner Victory Formation – still unbeaten – in an allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs over six furlongs. If he can handle the extra yardage today then he’ll be right in the mix.

On his last visit to the ‘Big A’ Andiamo A Firenze (6-1) was a fair fourth – albeit beaten a long way – in the G1 Champagne over this distance, but he ran some way below that level when runner-up in a state-bred stakes over six furlongs at little Finger Lakes last time, nailed on the line and beaten a nose. Sprinting may suit him better anyway.

The longshots Circling The Drain (12-1), seven-length winner of a Laurel Park maiden claimer over a mile-sixteenth, and Narciso Dali (20-1), who got it right sixth time when leading all the way in a maiden claimer over course and distance, could be out of their depth at this level.

2023 Jerome Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

HORSEJOCKEYODDS BY JAZZSPORTS
Neural NetworkManuel Franco+350
Circling the DrainJevian Toledo+1200
Valenzan DayJose Antonio Gomez+1000
Lugan KnightDylan Davis+400
Andiamo a FirenzeKendrick Carmouche+600
Arctic ArroganceJose Lezcano+160
General BankerEric Cancel+800
Narciso DaliKatie Davis+2000

The distance is a doubt for Lugan Knight so the front-running ARCTIC ARROGANCE, already a stakes winner over course and distance, is a very solid choice.

Sham Stakes

G3, $100,000, 1m dirt, 3yo, Santa Anita, Sunday 3.30pm PT

It’s another chance to do the Bob Baffert shuffle in the Sham, the highlight of Sunday afternoon at Santa Anita, a race the controversial master trainer has won for the last three years and a record eight times in total.

Baffert sends four to the gate, two-thirds of the field, and as everyone knows his horses can’t collect ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ points, offered here on a 10-4-3-2-1 spread. His highest-profile contender is National Treasure, who gets class relief after a fine performance in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.

National Treasure never got a sniff of the lead there but kept on in solid style for third, beaten three and three-quarter lengths by probable champion two-year-old colt Forte. He followed barnmate Cave Rock home, as he had in the G1 American Pharoah here over a mile-sixteenth, and there is nothing of that colt’s quality in today’s field.

His barnmate Speed Boat Beach returns to the main track after two stakes wins on the lawn, most recently when a game half-length winner of the G3 Cecil B DeMille over a mile at Del Mar last month. On his only start on dirt he set a track record on debut, over five and a half furlongs, so if he can perform similarly over this distance then he won’t be far away.

Showman supreme Frankie Dettori gets the leg-up on Newgate, who hasn’t made it pay in three starts at Graded level and was outrun by barnmate Havnameltdown in the G3 Bob Hope over seven furlongs at Del Mar. He needs to do better, while the final member of the Baffert quartet Reincarnate only got off the mark at the fourth attempt, wiring the field over a mile at Del Mar, and – though he mustn’t be ignored – has to make plenty of improvement to outmuscle his neighbours.

This is a different game for Packs A Wahlop, who has two G3 wins on the weeds to his name and was expected to do much better than eighth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland. He has to rebound now, and was beaten on his only start on the main track (although that was his debut).

Del Mar maiden winner Spun Intended couldn’t have been more impressive when skipping six and a half lengths clear over six and a half furlongs, and although he takes on some big hitters here he could be a player if making usual improvement from his second start to his third.

2023 Sham Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

HORSEJOCKEYODDS BY JAZZSPORTS
NewgateLanfranco Dettori
National TreasureJohn R. Velazquez
Speed Boat BeachFlavien Prat
ReincarnateJuan J. Hernandez
Packs a WahlopRamon A. Vazquez
Spun IntendedMike E. Smith
**ODDS WILL BE UPDATE SOON**

It will be a surprise if Bob Baffert doesn’t get his ninth Sham, and Breeders’ Cup third NATIONAL TREASURE has by some way the strongest credentials of his quartet.

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