SUPERSTARS CALIFORNIA CHROME & SHARED BELIEF READY FOR SHOWDOWN IN SATURDAY’S GRADE II, $500,000 SAN ANTONIO INVITATIONAL AT SANTA ANITA

 

A FIELD OF PERHAPS 10 OLDER HORSES, INCLUDING RECENT SAN PASQUAL WINNER HOPPERTUNITY, ARE EXPECTED TO COMPETE AT 1 1/8 MILES

 

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 1, 2015)–In what looms as an epic showdown between two of the sport’s most highly regarded runners, reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome and 2013 Eclipse Champion 2-year-old Male Shared Belief, are set to square off Saturday in the Grade II, $500,000 San Antonio Invitational at Santa Anita.

A winner of four Grade I stakes last year: the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Hollywood Derby, California-bred California Chrome became a national sensation and although he was defeated in three consecutive races–the Belmont Stakes June 7, the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 20, and the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, gained a huge measure of redemption in taking Del Mar’s Hollywood Derby, run at 1 1/8 miles on turf, on Nov. 29.

By virtue of an overall campaign that also saw him defeat state-breds in the Cal Cup Derby and open company in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes, California Chrome was also awarded Eclipse honors as Champion 3-year-old Male. A chestnut colt by Lucky Pulpit, “Chrome” has nine wins from 16 starts and earnings of $4,222,650.

Trained by Art Sherman and owned by his breeders, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome, in his final San Antonio prep, breezed five furlongs this morning at his Los Alamitos headquarters in 1:01.60 under Victor Espinoza.

“I think he went excellent,” said Espinoza. “He was steady all the way around, just cruising in the middle of the racetrack. I thought he went in a minute flat, it felt like that anyway. I think it was a perfect work for him, he’s ready. The way he’s going and the way he’s been working tells me he’s ready to go.”

Sherman said that he would have preferred a faster work.

“I was looking for a minute and change,” he said. “That would have helped me a lot more going into this race. I think it’s a good work but I would have liked a sharper workout for this race. He’s doing so good though…His gallop out was stronger than it has been. He galloped out in 1:11 and four (fifths). ..He’ll be fresh and ready, I can tell you that.”

Assistant trainer Alan Sherman noted that California Chrome would “go over to Santa Anita Tuesday and he’ll train on the track Wednesday.”

Voted America’s Eclipse Award Champion 2-year-old Male in 2013, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s Shared Belief defeated older horses in last year’s Grade I Pacific Classic and in the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes and was undefeated as the 5-2 post time favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Breaking from post position six, his chances for victory were virtually eliminated at the break as eventual winner Bayern, drawn to his immediate outside, broke in sharply, costing the Candy Ride gelding early position and a clean run into the first turn.

Owned by Jim and Janet Rome’s Jungle Racing, LLC, KMN Racing, LLC, Litt, Solis II, Hollendorfer and Todaro, Shared Belief cut back in distance off of his fourth place run in the Classic to win the Grade I, seven furlong Malibu on Dec. 26. He’ll have his final San Antonio tune up at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday morning.

“He’ll work a half mile under Russell Baze,” said Hollendorfer by phone from Golden Gate Fields this morning. “He’s a very consistent horse.” Shared Belief, who will be ridden by regular pilot Mike Smith in the San Antonio, will be shipped by van to Santa Anita on Wednesday morning. He has eight wins from nine starts and earnings of $2,032,200.

Entries will be taken for the San Antonio on Wednesday and Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity, a winner of the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual Stakes Jan. 10, is now listed as definite for the San Antonio. A winner of the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs two starts back on Nov. 28, Hoppertunity won last year’s Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and was subsequently second to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.

Owned by Karl Watson, Paul Weitman and Mike Pegram, Hoppertunity worked six furlongs in company in 1:14.20 this morning at Santa Anita under regular rider Martin Garcia. Stablemate Doctor Dempsey was clocked in 1:14.60.

“He’s running,” said Baffert of Hoppertunity, for whom the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park had also been under consideration. “That’s good for him,” he said of Hoppertunity’s workout time.

A 4-year-old colt by Any Given Saturday, Hoppertunity has four wins and two seconds from eight starts and has earnings of $1,070,675.

The San Antonio, which is expected to attract a field of between eight to 10 older horses, will be broadcast live on FOX Sports 1. First post time for a nine-race card Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Admission gates will open at 10:30 a.m.