CALIFORNIA CHROME, SHARED BELIEF & HOPPERTUNITY HEAD OUTSTANDING FIELD OF NINE IN SATURDAY’S GRADE II, $500,000 SAN ANTONIO INVITATIONAL AT 1 1/8 MILES

 

SHERMAN, HOLLENDORFER & BAFFERT COLLIDE IN MUCH-ANTICIPATED FOLLOW-UP TO B.C. CLASSIC;

SAN ANTONIO TO BE PART OF ‘JOCKEY CLUB TOUR’ AND BE BROADCAST LIVE ON FOX SPORTS 1

 

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 4, 2015)–Three of the nation’s most highly regarded 4-year-olds, Horse of the Year California Chrome, 2013 Eclipse Champion 2-year-old Male Shared Belief and recent San Pasqual Stakes winner Hoppertunity head a dynamic field of nine older horses in Saturday’s Grade II, $500,000 San Antonio Invitational, to be run at 1 1/8 miles this Saturday at Santa Anita.

California Chrome, trained by Art Sherman, and Shared Belief, conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer, will meet for the first time since Bob Baffert’s Bayern orchestrated a controversial gate to wire win in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 1. Although Bayern has yet to make his 2015 debut, Baffert will be represented by Hoppertunity, and thus, all three trainers are again front and center in what no-doubt shapes up as the biggest race of the New Year.

A winner of last year’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California-bred California Chrome was third, beaten a neck in the Classic and he followed that with a two length win in the Grade I Hollywood Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf Nov. 29–thus giving him four Grade I victories on the year.

Although he had no apparent excuses in the Classic, “Chrome” was voted Horse of the Year as well as Eclipse Champion 3-year-old Male, in what many observers viewed as a partial rebuke to Bayern’s Classic triumph, which was tainted by the fact he bore in sharply leaving the gate, fouling Shared Belief and others.

Owned by his breeders, Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome is by Lucky Pulpit and is out of Love the Chase, a mare that won just once, an $8,000 maiden claimer at Golden Gate Fields. America’s most recognizable horse, chestnut hued California Chrome is blessed with outstanding tactical speed and the ability to carry it classic distances. In his quest to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, California Chrome came up 1 ¾ lengths short in the Belmont, as he ran fourth, which also snapped a six-race winning streak.

In addition to the Santa Anita Derby, California Chrome also won the California Cup Derby and the Grade II San Felipe at Santa Anita last year and is three for five lifetime in Arcadia. With nine wins, a second and a third from 16 overall starts, he has $4,222,650 in earnings. Based at Los Alamitos, he vanned to Santa Anita on Tuesday and will be ridden for the 11th consecutive time by Victor Espinoza.

Undefeated in seven starts going into the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Shared Belief was the 5-2 post time favorite but in the opinion of many, lost all chance at victory when he was knocked sideways leaving the gate, causing him to take up shortly thereafter and losing early position. Although the rancorous aftermath of the Classic still hangs in the air, the Candy Ride gelding gained a measure of redemption by taking the Grade I, seven furlong Malibu Stakes on Santa Anita’s opening day, Dec. 26.

Owned by Jim and Janet Rome’s Jungle Racing Stable, LLC, Hollendorfer, George Todaro, Jason Litt and Alex Solis II, Shared Belief twice defeated older horses last year, in the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles Pacific Classic on Aug. 24, and three starts back, in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Sept. 27.

Like California Chrome, Shared Belief has plenty of natural speed and he’s a proven warrior when the real running commences. Favored in seven out of his nine career starts, Shared Belief is two for three at Santa Anita and has eight overall victories, resulting in earnings of $2,032,200. Headquartered at Golden Gate Fields, he’ll again be ridden by Mike Smith, who has guided him to four wins in his last five starts.

Hollendorfer will also saddle longshot Tonito M., who comes off a close fourth place finish to Hoppertunity in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 10. A winner of six out of his first seven starts in Puerto Rico, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Rock Hard Ten won the Grade III Oklahoma Derby three starts back, his lone win in eight stateside starts for Hollendorfer. He is 15-7-3-2 overall with earnings of $503,812.

A winner of last year’s Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Rebel Stakes, Hoppertunity was subsequently second to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby, after which he went to the sidelines. Following a close second in a seven furlong allowance at Santa Anita Oct. 29, the Kentucky-bred colt by Any Given Saturday then pressed the pace en route to a half length win in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28.

In his 4-year-old debut Jan. 10, Hoppertunity was an impressive 1 ¾ length winner of the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual on Jan. 10. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Hoppertunity has two wins and two seconds from five starts at Santa Anita and is 8-4-2-0 overall with earnings of $1,070,675.

A well beaten 15th in Japan’s Group I, 1 1/8 miles Champions Cup on Dec. 7, trainer George Papaprodromou’s Imperative was one of several horses who were negatively impacted at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Classic two starts back on Nov. 1. A sharp second from off the pace in last year’s San Antonio, the 5-year-old Bernardini gelding will hope for a fast pace. A miraculous $50,000 claim 12 starts back in December, 2013, Imperative made over $1.2 million last year. Owned by KM Racing Enterprise, he is 21-3-4-3 overall, with lifetime earnings of $1,320,870.

Although well beaten in the restricted Clockers’ Corner Stakes going 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course on Jan. 25, veteran Clubhouse Ride has proven he can act with top horses on dirt and will try to make his presence felt from off the pace. Trained by Craig Lewis and owned by Six-S Racing Stable and Nikolas Petralia, the 7-year-old horse by Candy Ride was a winner of Santa Anita’s Grade II, 1 1/8 miles Californian last June and has amassed $1,321,132 in earnings from an overall mark of 42-5-9-10.

A Group I winner in his native Chile, trainer Neil Drysdale’s Bronzo was sixth, beaten 4 ¾ lengths by Hoppertunity in his second U.S. start, the San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 10. A 6-year-old gelding by Fusaichi Pegasus, Bronzo could well improve with a race under his belt and will hope to be flying late in the colors of his owner, Don Alberto Stable. He is 21-11-1-4 overall with earnings of $273,002.

The complete field for the San Antonio, to be televised live on Fox Sports 1 and carded as the eighth race on a nine-card, with jockeys, weights and morning line in post position order: Hoppertunity, Martin Garcia, 123, 4-1; Tonito M., Rafael Bejarano, 120, 15-1; You Know I Know, Drayden Van Dyke, 118, 30-1; Imperative, Flavien Prat, 120, 20-1; Shared Belief, Mike Smith, 123, 7-5; Clubhouse Ride, Aaron Gryder, 120, 30-1; Bronzo, Gary Stevens, 120, 20-1; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 123, 6-5, and Alfa Bird, Tyler Baze, 118, 30-1.

                First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.