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California Chrome and Shared Belief Square Off in San Antonio Invitational

California Chrome and Shared Belief Square Off in San Antonio Invitational: Racing’s two biggest stars take the stage on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at Santa Anita Park, and picking one is not an easy task. In fact, the winner of the nine furlong G2 San Antonio may turn out as a different horse than California Chrome or Shared Belief, although those two clearly hold the best chances.

San Antonio Stakes 2015

California Chrome, Shared Belief and Hoppertunity head outstanding field of nine in the $500,000 San Antonio Invitational at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, February 7, 2015. Photo: Benoit

As reigning three-year-old Eclipse champion and Horse of the Year, California Chrome rates as the horse to beat.

Since his win in the G1 Hollywood Derby last November, California Chrome worked consistently every 7 or 8 days including a “best out of 16” bullet workout Jan. 10. Some disagreement came over the most recent workout at Los Alamitos on Feb. 1, listed as 1:01 3/5 for five furlongs on BRIS and 1:03 3/5 on the track’s “Stable Notes,” when trainer Art Sherman hoped for a faster final time.

“I thought he was going to work him faster,” Sherman told Ed Golden. ” … I was looking for a minute and change; that would have helped me a lot more going into this race.”

Despite the miscommunication, regular jockey Victor Espinoza remains confident.

From the same article, Espinoza said, “The way he feels when I work him, he’s bigger and more mature. From last year to this is a big difference. He’s been working really strong.”

The four-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit starts from post position No. 8, favorable because the colt tends to struggle running behind horses and taking dirt. Whether Chrome’s run results in a win or loss, a solid effort seems likely and should prepare the Derby champion for next month’s Dubai World Cup.

Breaking from post No. 5, the co-most popular horse and equally talented Shared Belief looks ready to answer questions asked since the inward-breaking Bayern compromised his chances in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

One set of observers believes Shared Belief would remain undefeated after the Classic with a cleaner break, or at least finish much closer than fourth. Another group thinks the longer distance offered Shared Belief time to recover. The leading group of Bayern, Toast of New York and California Chrome ran away from the field turning for home, indicating genuinely top-quality efforts from the trio.

For his part, in December Shared Belief won the seven furlong G1 Malibu S. in a narrow margin over Conquest Two Step. Last weekend, Conquest Two Step took the G2 Palos Verdes decisively over a strong field including Secret Circle, flattering Shared Belief’s win the month before. The Candy Ride gelding recorded five workouts at Golden Gate Fields on the Tapeta surface since the Malibu, including a five furlong “best out of 9” bullet in 1:00 4/5 on Jan. 13.

A “very consistent horse” according to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Shared Belief’s loss in the Classic remains his only one out of nine starts. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith takes the call once more.

With such impressive accomplishments between the two rockstars, bettors cannot completely ignore either California Chrome or Shared Belief. Other options exist though, at least underneath.

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern ran out of time, but trainer Bob Baffert entered last month’s G2 San Pasqual and recent G1 Clark Handicap winner Hoppertunity. Always highly regarded last spring, Hoppertunity suffered a setback which prevented the colt from running in the Kentucky Derby. Sometimes growing colts mature later than others and perhaps this one caught up.

Those looking for a longshot might try Alfa Bird, impressive winner of an optional claiming race on Jan. 2 at the same nine furlong distance. Lightly raced and a four-year-old son of dirt router Birdstone, Alfa Bird needs one more jump in performance. The improving colt holds a bright future and could light up the board.

The race starts at 4 p.m. Pacific Time, with Fox Sports 1 set to give the event full coverage.

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San Antonio Invitational 2015 Post Positons & Odds
Race #8 4:00 PM PT
1 Hoppertunity 4-1 Garcia/Baffert
2 Tonito M. 15-1 Bejarano/Hollendorfer
3 You Know I Know 30-1 Van Dyke/Sadler
4 Imperative 20-1 Prat/Papaprodromou
5 Shared Belief 7-5 Smith/Hollendorfer
6 Clubhouse Ride 30-1 Gryder/Lewis
7 Bronzo 20-1 Stevens/Drysdale
8 California Chrome 6-5 Espinoza/Sherman
9 Alfa Bird 30-1 Baze/Garcia