07/13/2017 12:36PM

Hovdey: Klimt exemplifies Shah's gold standard

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Benoit & Associates
Del Mar Futurity winner Klimt returns in the Los Alamitos Derby for owner Kaleem Shah.

Just for a change of pace, Kaleem Shah got to see his name associated with a pair of sharp recent stakes winners rather than the usual headline fare, which had amounted to variations on “Shah Changes Trainers” or “Shah Changes Trainers Again.”

On July 3, Shah’s colt Run Away did just that to win the Santa Anita Juvenile. Then, last Sunday, his American Gal powered home by nearly five lengths to win the Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park. Both winners are trained by Simon Callaghan.

On Saturday in Southern California, where Shah has a home and most of his horses, 2016 Del Mar Futurity winner Klimt will make his long-awaited return for trainer Art Sherman in an attempt to give his owner another reason to celebrate.

Then again, if Klimt and Rafael Bejarano can handle the field in the $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby, don’t look for Shah to fist pump, chest bump, or display any of the modern public behaviors associated with winning an athletic contest. Shah is a low-key guy, which befits his day job as head of a company concerned with U.S. military intelligence. He will deploy a broad grin, hug any available family, and appreciate the fact that of all the things that can happen in Thoroughbred racing, winning is only one of them.

“So much of racing comes down to luck,” Shah said. “And we know that one good horse can carry the whole stable.”

The owner comes by his insights honestly. Shah’s father, Majeed Shah, was one of the most successful trainers in the history of racing in their native India, winning that nation’s Triple Crown twice. It was only natural that the son would be pulled toward the cream of the U.S. stakes prizes.

Shah’s long-running connection with Bob Baffert ended last December. Their time together featured giddy highs and sobering lows, from Bayern’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dortmund’s score in the Santa Anita Derby to the deaths of the fine sprinter Irrefutable and the $1.9 million purchase Take Control, a son of Azeri by A.P. Indy.

Shah’s racing fortunes were deeply embedded in the Baffert way of doing business, which made a smooth transition challenging. It takes time to turn an aircraft carrier. His first choices of new barns were no-brainers – Doug O’Neill and Art Sherman had been winning the kind of prestigious races Shah wants to win. But the O’Neill deal did not work out, and Sherman was faced with the unenviable task of rehabilitating classy runners like Dortmund, Klimt, and Del Mar track record-holder Power Jam rather than steadily training them for rich opportunities.

Dortmund and Power Jam have been retired, but Sherman finally has Klimt ready to run, even though 1 1/8 miles off the bench is a tall order. In the meantime, Shah has turned more recently to Callaghan for a healthy share of the stable action, while Graham Motion is training a promising Shah filly by City Zip.

“Arnold Zetcher, a friend of mine, always spoke highly of Simon,” Shah said.

Zetcher and Callaghan teamed up for major scores with Firing Line and Fashion Plate.

“I prefer to buy 2-year-olds in training,” Shah said. “I bought a few with Simon, and that’s how we got started.”

Klimt, a son of Quality Road, was a $435,000 purchase as an OBS 2-year-old in March 2016. If he can recapture his winning form from last summer’s Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity, he could be a player in the division.

“We’ll see,” Shah said. “The second half of the season is already off to a pretty good start. I just hope it can continue.”

Naming names in slaughter vote

Here they are, the 27 members of the House Appropriations Committee in the 27-25 majority who voted this week to fund FDA inspection of horse slaughter facilities, effectively raising the possibility that the industry could have a domestic revival with the reopening of slaughter facilities:

Mark Amodie and Jeff Fortenberry of Nevada; Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington; Ken Calvert and David Valadao of California; Robert Aderholt and Martha Roby of Alabama; Tom Cole of Oklahoma; Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida; Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee; Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey; Tom Graves of Georgia; Andy Harris of Maryland; Evan Jenkins of West Virginia; John Moolenaar of Michigan; Steven Palazzo of Mississippi; ; Harold Rogers of Kentucky; Michael Simpson of Idaho; Chris Stewart of Utah; Scott Taylor of Virginia; Steve Womack of Arkansas; David Young of Iowa; and John Carter, Kay Granger, Henry Cuellar, and John Abney Culberson of Texas.

There are a few issues that do not have two sides. This is one of them. If the argument is that the U.S. can do horse slaughter better than Canada or Mexico, that is no argument at all.

There is still a chance that the defunding of horse slaughterhouse inspections could be reinserted into the $20 billion appropriations package when considered by the entire House. There is also the ongoing opportunity for Congress to pass the SAFE Act (Safeguard American Food Exports), which is a more comprehensive piece of federal legislation that would effectively outlaw the sale, purchase, and transport of horses for slaughter.

And not for nothing, of the 27 slaughter enablers listed above, guess how many are co-sponsors of the SAFE Act? If you answered zero, your cynicism is justified.