Why Gormley looks a strong contender for the Santa Anita Derby

Gormley: there will be fewer gamer horses in Grade 1 company this season. Photo: Breeders’ Cup

The second stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby came at Santa Anita on Saturday with a fascinating renewal of the G3 Sham Stakes. Using the tools available to him via the TRC Global Rankings algorithm, James Willoughby is assessing each of the 28 trials along the way. Here is his analysis of Saturday’s encounter.

Trial number: 3 of 28
TRC trial rank: #24
Trial name: Sham Stakes
Grade: 3
Our Grade: 3
Course: Santa Anita
Date: Jan 7, 2017
Distance: 8f
Going: Sloppy
Winner: Gormley
Winner Expected RPR: 107.4
Winner Actual RPR: 116
Winning Trainer: John Shirreffs (TRC Global Ranking #213)
Winning Jockey: Victor Espinoza (#26)
Winning Owner: Mr & Mrs Jerome S Moss (#235)
Winning Sire: Malibu Moon (#92)


This has all the makings of a strong year for 3-year-old colts in the U.S. The second trial in our series produced the second winner to record a Racing Post Rating (RPR) in excess of that which we projected.

Gormley – the second horse to exit the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the second horse to win a Graded stakes subsequently – pulled well clear in the slop with American Anthem, trained by new world #3 Bob Baffert and a promising type in his own right.

The winner was conceding five pounds to the runner-up on account of his win in the G1 FrontRunner Stakes, also at Santa Anita, last October. Differences in the weights do not get as much attention in the U.S. as they do in Europe, but they should because Newton’s Laws still apply. Those who say that weight doesn’t matter, or that its effect is drowned out by other factors, are trying to deny physical laws.

Gormley ran down the field in the Juvenile ostensibly because he isn’t fast enough to contend in a very strong race like that – the winner Classic Empire (RPR 123) and runner-up Not This Time (122) – are both high-class horses and simply better than Gormley (116), in all probability. But there will be few gamer horses in Grade 1 races this season; the video shows that the winner and runner-up were engaged in a stirring duel virtually throughout this fast-run encounter, and neither yielded late.

Indeed, the Equibase chart comments ‘game’ and ‘fought back’ made of the first two finishers look well deserved.

Longer distances than this dead mile will suit Gormley, and he looks a strong contender for the ‘regional final’ at the G1 Santa Anita Derby over nine furlongs in April, where, of course, he would meet the runner-up on 5lb better terms.

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