ARCADIA, Calif. -- Trainer Alexis Barba and owners Ellen and Peter Johnson completed a sweep of the day's stakes races for 3-year-old males on Saturday at Santa Anita when Alphie's Bet, in his graded stakes debut, romped to a 2¼-length victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sham Stakes, giving them a pair of prospects who are one start away from the Kentucky Derby.
Alphie's Bet's victory came a half-hour after Make Music for Me captured the Pasadena Stakes in his first start of the year. Alphie's Bet completed 1⅛ miles on Pro-Ride in 1:48.72.
"Absolutely, I thought this might happen, but I was lying low because I know what can happen in racing," Barba said. "I felt pretty good -- yesterday."
Whatever nerves she had Saturday morning quickly melted away. Alphie's Bet ($19), forced to race three paths wide on the first turn and four wide on the far turn under jockey Alex Solis, resolutely kept to his task and was never in danger in the final furlong. Setsuko, the 5-2 favorite, rallied for second, with The Program finishing third.
Of the other well-regarded runners, Nextdoorneighbor faded badly to finish seventh after setting the early pace, and Kettle River never fired, finishing eighth in the field of 10.
The Sham was the fifth start for Alphie's Bet, but his first in open company. His prior four starts had been against California-breds. He was second to Caracortado in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes on opening day Dec. 26, then came back and defeated maidens on Jan. 15 in a grass race.
"They're each going to have one more race," Barba said. "We don't want to put them together. We wanted to see if Alphie could step up. Then we would know if we had a good one."
Alphie's Bet, a son of Tribal Rule, was bred by Teresa McWilliams, who still co-owns the colt along with the Johnsons.
Make Music for Me won the first race of his career in his seventh start in the $68,710 Pasadena on turf.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Make Music for Me ($15.40) closed from fourth in a field of 10 to win by a length over 9-10 favorite Macias, who was after his third consecutive stakes win. Alfarabi finished third.
Make Music for Me ran a mile on turf in 1:35.30 in his debut on the surface. At 2, he ran in four graded stakes, finishing second in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes last summer. He completed his 2009 campaign by finishing third in the CashCall Futurity.
Owned by the Johnsons, Make Music for Me will make his next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3, Barba said.
Steve Andersen contributed to this report.