Friday, September 1st, 2017   ( 3 months ago )

Owner Shah Hopes Run Away Can Follow in Klimt's Hoofprints

Kaleem Shah © Benoit Photo

By Hank Wesch

Last year Klimt, a horse Kaleem Shah named after 19th century Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, swept the major stakes for 2-year-olds, the Best Pal and the Del Mar Futurity.

On Labor Day Monday, September 4, Shah-owned Run Away, a horse presumably named for what was hoped he would do from all opposition, will attempt to duplicate Klimt’s feat. It would be the third consecutive year for a Best Pal-Futurity sweep – Nyquist was successful in 2015 – and the fifth such accomplishment since 2009.

It would carry the additional satisfaction for Shah, a 55-year-old native of India who is the founder and president of the CalNet technology company, of having been involved through the whole acquisition and development of back-to-back Del Mar juvenile champions.

Klimt, trained by Bob Baffert, was a $435,000 purchase as a 2-year-old at the Ocala sale in March of 2016 and earned back the price within five months of his racing debut with victories in the Best Pal and Futurity and a runner-up effort in the Grade I Front Runner at Santa Anita.

Run Away, trained by Simon Callaghan, was a $325,000 purchase at the 2017 Barretts sale in March. In three starts, all wins, he’s won $212,400 and would more than cover his sale price with a Futurity victory.

“Klimt, I was there but Bob selected the horse,” Shah recalled recently. “Run Away, I was there and my son (Arman) and I selected the horse. Most of my success has come from 2-year-old in training sales. I prefer them because at least you can see them run a little bit.”

Neither colt was the progeny of a particularly elite sire. Klimt’s sire, Quality Road, stands for $5,000. Run Away’s sire, Run Away and Hide, for $5,000.

“Each sire, I figure that no matter who they are they could (produce) that one good horse, so I just look for the athlete,” Shah said of his auction strategy. “Athleticism is the main thing. Conformation has to be reasonably good. But generally a well-conformed horse is very athletic. So, sire power has never bothered me.”

Shah’s father and uncle were both prominent trainers in India, so he comes by his love of -- and eye for -- horses naturally.

“I’ve been around good horses and I’ve seen good horses all my life, so naturally, I know a thing or two,” Shah said. “Before last year I would give a lot of kudos to Bob (Baffert) as far as selecting and managing the horses. This year, I’ve taken on a little bit more hands-on approach, and look how it has worked out with Run Away.”

The Del Mar Futurity proved a harbinger of success the following year in the Kentucky Derby for American Pharoah in 2014 and Nyquist in 2015. So Klimt’s success raised high hopes for this year in the Run for the Roses. But an ankle problem made Klimt, who was transferred from Baffert to Art Sherman, an early dropout from the Derby trail.

“It was a pretty easy decision,” Shah said. “When Art told me (Klimt) was hurting, I take care of my horses and I knew it was the thing to do. I don’t ever want to run a horse that’s hurting, so you just give him time off and wait until he’s ready.”

Shah had experienced the Kentucky Derby with Dortmund, who was undefeated before finishing third, beaten three lengths, by eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“Given the fact that he was 6-for-6 going into the Kentucky Derby, I thought that he would win,” Shah said. “Unfortunately, he got colic the week before the race and it set him back some, I think. It was not meant to be.”

The owner had had similar Kentucky Derby hopes for Bayern in 2014, but came up just a bit shy on the points list. There were other victories ahead, however, for the speedy ridgling starting with the Haskell Invitational, followed by a track record in the Pennsylvania Derby and then a controversial tally in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. He entered stud in 2016 with more than $4.4 million in earnings.

Run Away © Benoit Photo

Run Away showed the traits Shah looks for in a young horse at the sale, and has continued to improve with each race.

“He was very athletic and he had a very powerful hind end, which is typically a sign of a horse with a good engine,” Shah said of his Barretts impressions “He was very fluid in his moving. I hope he continues to improve and stays healthy.”

Callaghan considers the Best Pal to be Run Away’s best race to date, and Shah concurred.

“I thought he did it effortlessly,” Shah said. “Obviously, there’ll be better horses in the Futurity and even better in races further on. So, I hope and pray he continues to improve but three-for-three has got me dreaming.”

Shah’s company, which does extensive business with the U.S. government and armed forces, is headquartered in Reston, Va., with a branch office in San Diego. Shah maintains residences in both places.

“I go back and forth quite a bit,” Shah said. “Unfortunately, I won’t be here for the Futurity.

“But I do look forward to the Breeders’ Cup being at Del Mar and I hope they consider giving Del Mar even more racing in the fall. At Del Mar, I get to come out and see my horses when they work out and I enjoy that very much.”