By any measure owner Kaleem Shah is having a remarkable year. The native of Bellary, India, has had nine stakes winners this year, seven of which have been in graded stakes including two grade Is. The weekend of July 26-27 provided the best example of the kind of hot streak Shah is riding.
On July 26 at Del Mar, Shah’s Fed Biz won the grade II San Diego Handicap wire-to-wire in track-record time by 51⁄4 lengths. The 5-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway stopped the timer after 11⁄16 miles in 1:41, which was .48 seconds faster than the previous record set by Zenyatta in 2008. Fed Biz was a $950,000 yearling purchase that Bob Baffert and bloodstock agent Donato Lanni spied in the 2010 Keeneland September sale. By winning the San Diego, the colt captured his third graded stakes and now has earnings of nearly $660,500.
Shah then flew cross-country to be at Monmouth Park the next day to watch Bayern, a 3-year-old son of Offlee Wild, compete in the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I), which unfolded like a replay of the San Diego. Bayern went immediately to the front and stayed there throughout. He pulled away from all challengers in the stretch to win by 71⁄4 lengths, going the 11⁄8 miles in 1:47.82.
Going to Monmouth for a $1 million race was not as straightforward a decision as might be expected. Shah was already in California with his family to watch the San Diego, and he had a live entry in the weekend’s other grade I race, the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar. Declassify was coming into the Bing Crosby off a gutsy victory in the Triple Bend Stakes (gr. I) and was second-choice in the field behind Goldencents. In the end, Shah’s family decided to stay at Del Mar while he headed to the Haskell.
Declassify did not get a clean break in the Bing Crosby and quickly fell behind in the six-furlong event. The 4-year-old son of Orientate would never be a factor and finished last.
“This is a very humbling sport,” Shah said. “(Declassify) didn’t leave the gate running and soon all chances are gone. But it is the nature of the game; you have to accept the highs and lows and be thankful for what you have.”
Shah certainly recognizes his good fortune but doesn’t allow himself to get carried away. Too often he’s felt the sharp sting delivered by injuries, illness, and loss.
“I don’t get too upset when things go bad or we lose a race, and at the same time when you win, you don’t let yourself get too high. I just want all the horses to stay healthy,” Shah said. “As long as the horses stay sound, the wins will come.”
Shah gives a lot of credit for his good fortune to Baffert, more so for the trainer’s ability to spot a talented horse than for his training acumen.
“He is the best I know at picking out good horseflesh,” said Shah, who is the son of Majeed Shah, India’s most successful Thoroughbred trainer and two-time winner of India’s Triple Crown. Kaleem Shah knows racing in and out, still his father did everything he could to discourage Kaleem from getting involved in the sport. He recognized Kaleem’s strengths academically and didn’t see a future for him as a trainer.
“He let me focus on my studies and assumed after I started my own business that I would have the opportunity to come back to racing as an owner,” said Shah, who would create his own tech company named CalNet, a communications contracting firm that provides intelligence analysis and information technology to the federal government.
In 2008 Shah began buying horses with the help of Baffert and Lanni, who introduced the owner to the trainer.
Since Baffert and Lanni have been buying for him, Shah’s stable has had a stakes winner every year and has enjoyed a collective 26% win rate to date. In 2014 Shah and Baffert are winning at a phenomenal 41% clip. Through July 28, Shah is ranked sixth on the leading owners list with 18 wins and earnings of nearly $2,028,000. His horses have been in the money 57% of the time. Besides finding the right talent, Shah also recognizes the importance of giving his athletes time—time to grow, time to rest, time to heal the aches and pains of racing. Shah doesn’t mind waiting because he knows the time is a good investment.
“All the horses need some time,” he said. “If you don’t give them the time they need to come back and run their best, then they get hurt and that benefits nobody. I am a horse owner, an animal lover, and a racetracker, and the horses always come first.”