It was business as usual for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and his crew after recording one of their most memorable victories, Shared Belief’s 1 ½-length triumph in Saturday’s Grade II San Antonio Invitational over Horse of the Year California Chrome in a race that will be indelibly ensconced in the minds of the 21,522 fans in attendance at Santa Anita Park in addition to legions who watched on TV and on-line.
“Jerry got to the barn at 2:40 this morning and I was already there,” said Hollendorfer’s trusted assistant, Dan Ward. “He said, ‘I thought I’d beat you here this morning.’
“Shared Belief was excellent this morning,” Ward said. “He ate all his feed. What happened in the past is not important. The only thing is the future, and that would include the Santa Anita Handicap (on March 7).
“He’ll go back to Golden Gate tomorrow, train up there, probably come back the Wednesday before the race, keeping the same schedule as in the past.”
Both Hollendorfer and Ward were magnanimous after Shared Belief’s ninth victory from 10 career starts, Ward saying California Chrome’s trainer and his team are “100 percent class at all times.”
Hollendorfer, swarmed by media Saturday in a post-race press conference in the winner’s circle, said, “California Chrome has a big following, deservedly so. He deserved to be Horse of the Year. If things had gone a little bit different (in the Breeders’ Cup Classic), I might have got a chance, but you can’t always get things to go your way . . . I’m proud of Art and his horse, and I’m very proud of my horse and my partnership.”
The much anticipated rematch between Shared Belief, the 2013 champion 2-year-old male, and California Chrome lived up to every billing Saturday with the former delivering a brilliant stretch run to collar the dual classic winner in emphatic style.
A future meeting between the two champions, however, will have to wait as trainer Art Sherman confirmed that California Chrome will now prepare for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28.
“He’s going to Dubai,” Sherman said by phone from his Los Alamitos base Sunday morning. “We’re preparing for that. The horse came out the race well and ate up good.”
“It was a good race for the fans,” said Mike Smith, who once again authored a Hall of Fame ride aboard Shared Belief. “It’s going to be a great rivalry. It’s great for racing and hopefully they’ll get a chance to meet a few more times. Shared Belief is already a great horse. He’s young and has time to get better and do more great things.”
While Sherman expressed dissatisfaction with Chrome’s final pre-race breeze as being “too slow,” he did not use that as an excuse for getting beat. “He tried hard,” Sherman said. “We’ll hook up again.”
Only time will tell.
The undercard of the San Antonio saw Grade I winner Dortmund rally after being passed in midstretch by Firing Lane, fighting back on the rail to take the Grade III Robert B. Lewis.
Both Bob Baffert, trainer of Dortmund, and Simon Callaghan, trainer of Firing Line, said their charges came out of the race in good order.
“Dortmund looked really good at the barn afterwards,” Baffert said Sunday morning. “I was surprised, because after the Los Alamitos race, he was tired. After this race he was a pretty happy dude.
“It was a good race for him. We’ll look at the Santa Anita Derby (April 4) or we could go out of town.”
Callaghan had similar considerations for Firing Line.
On the opposite coast, Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, reported Sunday morning that Far From Over emerged from his improbable victory in the Grade III, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct in fine fettle. The bay son of Blame took a bad stumble coming out of the starting gate that left him at the back of the pack, but powered home to a 1 ¾-length victory over El Kabeir on Saturday.
“He came out in good shape, ate everything up today,” said Hughes. “I talked to Todd this morning; there are no immediate plans for him, but it looks like he’ll be staying in New York.”
Runner-up El Kabeir came out of the Withers in good shape according to the colt’s trainer, John Terranova. The son of Scat Daddy still sits atop the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” leaderboard with 25 points, having picked up four points for his second-place finish in the Withers.
“So far, so good,” said Terranova, who trains El Kabeir for Zayat Stables. “He cooled out really well after the race and is a nice, sound horse.”
After dueling with pacesetter Classy Class for much of the journey, El Kabeir, the odds-on favorite in the Withers, edged away from that rival in deep stretch, but could not hold off Far From Over.
“I thought it was a good effort,” said Terranova. “We were second best, but (El Kabeir) put in a good, solid effort. If you look at the numbers, he’s earned Beyer Speed Figures of 94, 95, and 93 for his last three races. He’s an ultra-consistent horse, hopefully we can take that next jump forward in his next race.”
According to Terranova, El Kabeir’s next race is likely to come in the Grade III, $400,000 Gotham on March 7 at the Aqueduct.