Updated on 01/28/2015 4:39PM

Jerardi: Let's hope 2015's star 4-year-olds fare better than better than those of 1990

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief (above) is scheduled to meet Horse of the Year California Chrome in the 4-year-old debut for both horses in the San Antonio at Santa Anita.

I was trying to think back to the last time all the best 3-year-olds returned the following year with ambitious campaigns planned. Perhaps it is because we are sitting on the 25th anniversary, but the year that comes to mind is 1990, when Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, after their four 1989 meetings, including epic finishes in the Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic, stayed in training, with tracks around the country hoping to attract the pair to run against each other.

Easy Goer started his year May 16 in the Gold Stage Stakes at seven furlongs. He was 1-5 that day at Belmont Park and won by 7 1/2 lengths. He was 2-5 in the Metropolitan Handicap 12 days later but finished third behind Criminal Type and Housebuster. Bet down to 1-5 again, Easy Goer then won the July 4 Suburban Handicap by 3 3/4 lengths.

Sunday Silence got a slightly later start, winning the June 3 Californian at Hollywood Park by three-quarters of a length before finishing second to Criminal Type (there’s that horse again, the eventual 1990 Horse of Year) in the June 24 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Sunday Silence, Easy Goer, and Criminal Type were going to meet up at Arlington Park on Aug. 4 for the Arlington Challenge Cup, a $1 million race at 1 1/4 miles. Easy Goer never made it to Chicago. His retirement was announced July 18. He had a bone chip.

Sunday Silence got to Arlington and was going to run even though the purse had been reduced to $600,000. He was retired two days before the race with a ligament injury.

So, even with the best of intentions, we all understand that this is horse racing, and plans are often wishes.

All of which brings us to the San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7. Bayern, by all accounts, is not going to make it, but California Chrome against Shared Belief and whichever other horses show up is plenty good enough for me.

I am not comparing California Chrome and Shared Belief to Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, just the circumstances. Sunday Silence won the San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Super Derby, and BC Classic as a 3-year-old, finishing second in the Belmont and Swaps. Easy Goer won the Swale, Gotham, Wood Memorial, Belmont, Whitney, Travers, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup while finishing second in the Derby, Preakness, and BC Classic, the greatest season in history not to be rewarded with any championship.

California Chrome is more accomplished than Shared Belief, who never got a chance to run in the Triple Crown races because of a foot problem. But is California Chrome really better?

Their only race, the BC Classic, does not really count. California Chrome got a chance to run his race and ran brilliantly when third. Shared Belief had all of those problems at the start, so there is no way to know what might have happened.

Let’s hope the San Antonio is a race in which both horses get clean trips and hook up in the stretch, the outcome clear and convincing. And let’s hope this is the first of several meetings this year, with Bayern getting involved sooner rather than later.

Assuming the Big Two get to the starting gate Feb. 7 (and this is no sport for assumptions), make sure to savor it. It doesn’t happen often, and you don’t know when or if it will happen again.

I know this is asking too much, but wouldn’t it be nice (and very different) if California Chrome, Shared Belief, and Bayern ran right through the season and made their way east in the fall to Keeneland for a rematch of the 2014 BC Classic, where all questions could be answered and all doubts removed?

Whatever could go wrong with the 1990 season did go wrong, culminating with that frigid day at Belmont Park, where the sport lost three horses and the last of its innocence. A quarter-century later, we are due for a much better season and an ending where the only debate is about the merits of the horses.