08/28/2014 3:02PM

Hovdey: The envelope, please


If Tiger Woods can be paid $3 million for simply teeing off in a Turkish golf tournament, as he was last November, who could possibly have any problem with the owners and trainer of Derby-Preakness winner California Chrome carving up $200,000 in appearance fees for running in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 20? Perhaps a quote from a dozen years ago will clear the air:

“There’s nothing illegal about it, and nothing was done under the table. It’s business, right? It’s the American way.”

The above was brought to you by Bob Baffert, who was asked by Bill Finley in The New York Times to justify the $50,000 fee he was being paid to take Derby-Preakness winner War Emblem to Monmouth Park for the 2002 Haskell Invitational. The handsome gratuity was consistent with the 50K paid the trainer in 2001 for Point Given’s participation in the same event. Both colts won, which is also the American way.

No one in his or her right mind should ever begrudge anyone doing anything to make an honest buck, especially since there seems to be fewer of them around these days. The owners of California Chrome have a commodity in demand, and the management of Parx Racing has the casino cash on hand to take advantage of the colt’s undeniable appeal. In a perfect world, the million-dollar purse should have been enough to lure California Chrome east. But the conditions are right there in the Parx stakes book, following the breakdown of the purse:

“All horses that start in this race that which have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Haskell Invitational or Travers will qualify the owner and trainer to receive $50,000 additional.”

Hopefully, Parx will have a big day with California Chrome, and the attendance will be considerably more than the “unavailable” listed daily. In sending their colt to suburban Philadelphia, however, owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn have put a price of their $100,000 plus the $600,000 winner’s prize on risking California Chrome’s chances to be Horse of the Year.

California Chrome will be competing for the first time since early June. He will be traveling 2,400 miles from his West Coast training grounds. He will be running over a surface with which his trainer, Art Sherman, is not familiar. In terms of money, his people have plenty to win, but in terms of reputation, California Chrome has everything to lose.

On the plus side, California Chrome already has proven that he has a devastating road game. He holds his weight well, and his spirit never seems to sag. No matter who shows up, the Pennsylvania Derby should be at his mercy. After that, it will be a matter of how much horse Sherman has left for the Big Dance – the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1 – when the Horse of the Year title will be squarely on the line.

That is why the unbeaten Pacific Classic winner Shared Belief will be staying home in California, even though the rich Pennsylvania Derby option is tempting. On Thursday, Jerry Hollendorfer reported that the gelded son of Candy Ride settled back into his familiar digs at Golden Gate Fields the night before and likely would be going back to the track Friday following his regular post-race routine. He emerged from his Classic win with only the superficial scrape on his forehead he sustained shipping south in the van last week.

“A flesh wound,” Hollendorfer said. “That’s what it was. Reminds me of the old westerns I used to watch on TV.”

After the struggle earlier this year to heal Shared Belief’s injured hoof, the trainer enjoys how mundane the care of the stable star has become.

“He stays about the same,” Hollendorfer said. “He doesn’t back off his feed in any way after his race and acts no different no matter where he is.”

To get Shared Belief to the Breeders’ Cup, Hollendorfer does not see beyond the two options he outlined in the immediate wake of the Pacific Classic: run in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 27 or train up to the Breeders’ Cup. By Thursday, he was starting to lean.

“I think he has proved he can train up to a race and run very well,” Hollendorfer said. “But to run in the Breeders’ Cup, we have to be super ready, so I’m probably going to look at the Awesome Again for him and think pretty hard about running in that race. I would rather have a race in between. I don’t think it’s going to hurt him for sure.”

So, while California Chrome and his gang go for the big bucks in the City of Brotherly Love, Hollendorfer and Shared Belief will keep their eyes on the prize out West. After stepping up dramatically in distance and company in his last two wins, the only variable he’ll face in the Awesome Again would be the newly installed Santa Anita dirt track.

“So far, our horse has handled every surface we’ve put him on,” Hollendorfer said. “I think he’ll be able to handle that surface also, and hopefully it will be a great surface. So, we’re thinking very positive thoughts about Shared Belief and hope we can stay sound and be around for the end of the year.”

jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
Few are begrudging CC's connections his appearance fee. Some question why they are choosing such a weak path for a potential Horse of the Year candidate. CC ducked the Pac Classic, Haskell, and Travers to run against second tier competition. They might earn a nice payday but they haven't helped his Eclipse chances. Right now Shared Belief has become the horse to beat and nothing CC does in the Pennsylvania Derby will change that the way a Travers victory would have.
mike More than 1 year ago
Tell me,did CC "duck" ALL THREE LEGS OF THE TRIPLE CROWN. It's his first race back,what do you expect? Don't think he will be ducking anyone when facing SB and company in the Classic. Your comment is absurd.
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
Agreed. you can't "squeeze the lemon dry". Why NOT give him an easy comeback race off the layoff? Sherman certainly wouldn't be the FIRST trainer to employ this tactic. Poor horse just won three Grade 1s in a row in 6 weeks time and then attempted a mile and a half three weeks later. the publicly released vet records show he was given Banamine in the week prior to the Belmont for a sore back. He's NOT a machine: get real!
mike More than 1 year ago
Gaye, some idiots don't care if Chrome raced seven days a week. You're on point,not a machine.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
Running in all three legs of the triple crown should not wear out a great horse. Every year three-year-olds do it and that is how we measure them. Great horse's don't take on "easy" races competing for a year-end championship. CC is a fine horse. But when his connections chose to take the easy money and run in the Pen Derby they diminished his chances of being viewed as a great horse historically. That's just a fact no matter how much you whine and call people idiots.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Sherman has managed this horse beautifully. He ran a hard campaign up to the Belmont. I believe this campaign was instrumental in winning the KY derby & Preakness. He had tough trip in the Belmont and looked spent. He deserved he layoff and why wouldn't Sherman go to the PA Derby & the million purse? Horse is 3yo & still has the condition eligible. No brainer. Good luck Art. You've done a tremendous job
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Sorry Jim, but you are totally off base with that comment. C.C. has "danced every dance." He needed time off after a hard and successful campaign. Horses are flesh and blood. Hopefully, he comes back as good if not better than before.
mike More than 1 year ago
Your friggin comments are absurd.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
CC is not a great horse. Easy Goer ran in all three triple crown races and won the Travers, Whitney and Jockey Club Gold Cup all before he ran in the BC Classic. That's the kind of campaign a champion should at least aim for. Sorry but Penn Derby then Classic just doesn't cut it, not if you want to be a champion.
mike More than 1 year ago
Jim, guess it never occurred to you,Penn is a turn up for the Classic. FYI,don't care what you say,HORSES AREN'T MACHINES.
mike More than 1 year ago
CC really burned you,did you lose a bundle betting against him?
mike More than 1 year ago
meant to say tune up
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
You could actually make an intelligent argument and point out that Animal Kingdom or I'll Have Another became 3yo champions without racing after the triple crown but they were injured. Of the non-injured 3yo champions of the past 8 years 3 have won the Travers (Will Take Charge, Summer Bird, Bernardini) 2 have won the Haskell (Looking at Lucky, Big Brown) and Curlin beat older in the Woodward. If you actually believe CC is a special horse then you want to see him prove it in the races that historically matter. CC will be in a dogfight with Shared Belief for 3yo champion and a win in one of those races would have made a big difference. You obviously don't understand any of this, but I just thought I'd shared what a reasonable argument looks like as opposed to calling people idiots, saying their ideas are absurd and repeating cliches like horses aren't machines as if that's insightful.
mike More than 1 year ago
I don't understand? Obviously you are missing something to live under a mirage that horses don't need a break. All Chrome has to do is take care of business at Penn and prevail in the Classic,in fact a good second in his first race back at winning the Classic will pretty much do. I'll tell you what I know smart guy,I know you don't friggin squeeze the lemon dry,that's what I know.
Walter More than 1 year ago
It should be applauded that CC is running in the PA derby. Sherman will have found an easy spot for him and the million dollar purse won't hurt either.
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
I am betting that Tapiture beats Chrome in PA Derby and Game On Dude gets his game back on in Awesome Again. So the BC match might be between two 3 year olds coming off losses. Hope they all make it there healthy and in good form.
mike More than 1 year ago
BTW,thanks for the laugh about Tapiture beating Chrome. As Hovdey stated,the "others will be at his mercy".
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
You're very welcome.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the laugh. Chrome will dust that one, and get paid for a work out.
mike More than 1 year ago
Pagani, Agreed! It's individuals that live with "wishful thinking" hoping he loses. Not happening.
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
Glad I could lighten you day. I hope Chrome is as ready for the comeback race as some of you seem to think. I did not get the impression his trainer shared the same confidence after his work on Friday. Seems he needs one more week (9/27) or perhaps home track Los Al Mile same day as PA Derby as a tightener. But it is a toss up with only one prep to pick before BC Classic for a horse that was given a mid summer turnout.
mike More than 1 year ago
Barbara it's not secret what you think of Chromes connections. Please come back here after Chrome wins so I can put it back in your face.
mike More than 1 year ago
Intended on saying,no secret
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
I think very well of Chrome's training connections and his jockey. Put off a lot less than you think by his owners although certainly not a fan of either, and have always loved the horse from before the Derby. Would be happy to see Chrome win and will promise to be back for you to tell me so. I don't hide.
mike More than 1 year ago
I don't hide either. Obviously you've done a 180 considering your comments regarding connections on Paulick Report,a site I can't post any longer. Regarding Chrome's mid summer turnout,he needed it.
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
I have not done a 180. I always liked Chrome very much and his connections, up until the respective Coburn and Martin meltdowns.Sill think the world of Shermans. But who cares what I think? Yes, he did deserve the turn out. He might need more time in training to come back in full form, that's all.
julietvalcouer . More than 1 year ago
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me three times, shame on me and any other sucker who bets Game On Dude to win again unless he's at a HUGE price. I'm not ready to proclaim Shared Belief the next big thing until he beats something more impressive than Game On Dude on a losing streak while being givens six pounds (the best three-year-old he's faced so far is Toast Of New York-he hasn't even confronted the third-string Eastern horses, let alone the likes of Wicked Strong or Tonliast) but unless he decides he really hates the new dirt at SA, who's he going to be running against him that could beat him? Dude's only hope is no one sends any other front speed out. None of the other big 3yos are going to be there. As for Chrome, if he's fit, the only real risk is if a very on-their-game Tonalist or Wicked Strong shows up, or if he gets really bad trip. And they've raced a lot more recently. The big test is in November--what with Chrome do against older, and what will Shared Belief do against top-class three-year-olds and older horses who aren't in multi-race slumps.
mike More than 1 year ago
In Nov Chrome will be a tour de force.
Bob Collett More than 1 year ago
the author implies that Shared Belief is ducking the PA Derby?
Andrew More than 1 year ago
No he does not.
Gunner More than 1 year ago
Either that or CC is ducking the Awesome Again. Take your pick.
mike More than 1 year ago
He isn't suggesting that.
James More than 1 year ago
When Cigar was getting his epic roll going he get a $500,000 bonus for winning the MassCap at Suffolk Downs. Everyone was happy, no one complained.
Gunner More than 1 year ago
Ahh, the MassCap. "The bonus is tied into the Gulfstream Park Handicap, the Oaklawn Handicap and the Pimlico Special. Any horse who wins those three races plus the MassCap wins a $500,000 bonus." Just so you have your facts straight and remain "happy".
Jason Rothstein More than 1 year ago
After that exhibition at del mar, last weekend it's plain to see that SB is a extremely talented horse, but let's not make the classic a match race, just yet. Last time I checked, Palace Malace, is still a top class runner and Will take charge can fire big time when he's right.
Bob Rose More than 1 year ago
If Baffart scored $50k appearance fee, Sherman deserves the 'twice as much' he will receive, jus' sayin'.
seattle More than 1 year ago
Shared Belief is obviously a very good horse, champion 2 yr old etc. He never left California though. Interesting, horses like Kotashaan (1993), Ferdinand (1987), Ack Ack, and Noor only won in California in the years they won HOY. Swaps, Azeri, & Zenyatta won most of their races in California. Just as nobody should question the greatness of these horses, nobody also should question the greatness of horses like Forego, Easy Goer, Kelso, Tom Fool, Arts and Letters, Native Dancer, Sword Dancer and Man O' War for winning most of their races in New York.
Jerry Ray More than 1 year ago
You left out Native Diver who was one of the greatest to race in California.
B More than 1 year ago
I have been against this PA Derby choice for some time, but after the Pacific Classic, I would not want to see Chrome take on SB in the Awesome Again having not raced since early June. He needs some conditioning before tackling that one, so while I wish he wasn't traveling so far to an unknown racetrack, both to him and his trainer, I now think it's a better idea than going in the Awesome Again.
Michael Mollica More than 1 year ago
the flight for CC will be easier than a van ride...its just like any person taking a flight east from Cal ...the only concern will be weather factor..especially humidity... it took Shared Belief 9 hour van ride to get from Golden Gate to Del Mar...
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Hollendorfer came to town last year. He may still bring a few. I can say September is the best month at Parx and PA Derby day is usually flooded with people. I cant say that the rest of the year because the racing is really weak because of the year round schedule. Even though the move with the bonus is genius in luring big horses, changes could be made for the rest of the year to make Parx playable. I live 5 mins away and have to wait to Sept to go watch live racing. Got to see my fav horse of all time last year in Close Hatches.