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    Trainer Bob Baffert is sitting pretty going into Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) with favorites American Pharoah and Dortmund. Wednesday morning outside his barn on the backside of Churchill Downs, a swarm of fans strained to get a glimpse or snap a photo of either colt. But for owner Kaleem Shah, there’s only one horse he’s concerned with - his Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner, Dortmund.

    “It is not just a two-horse race,” said Shah. “There are 19 other good horses in the race. Everybody is hopeful; that’s why they’re running. There is so much luck that goes into this race, but I’m hopeful that he’ll do well.”

    Shah, an Indian national who became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1992, came to this country in 1985 to pursue his first master’s degree in computer engineering from Clemson University, and then an MBA in international finance from George Washington University. Shah is president of CALNET, Inc., a technology solutions company he founded in 1989, headquartered in Reston, Va.

    Shah has made his home in the U.S. and may be one of the more patriotic entries in this year’s Kentucky Derby. The racing silks jockey Martin Garcia will wear when he pilots Dortmund from post position eight in Saturday’s big race sport red and white stripes, blue sleeves and a blue cap, bedecked in white stars.

    “When I became a citizen, I became one in principal, not to reap the rewards and benefits this great country has,” said Shah. “I raced a few horses with my dad [widely-successful trainer Majeed Shah] in India at the time in the 1990s, so I designed my silks way back in the ‘90s in red, white and blue.

    It was my love of this country and my sense of patriotism,” Shah continued.

    Last year Shah looked to have a Kentucky Derby runner in the Baffert-trained Bayern, but fate wasn’t on Shah’s side. After breaking his maiden at first asking just after becoming a 3-year-old and coming back to a 15-length romp in an allowance, Bayern looked to be a Kentucky Derby runner in the making. He was the favorite when the field broke from the gates in the Arkansas Derby (G1), a race he’d need to win to earn enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field. However, longshot Danza got the win and Bayern finished third. But Bayern finished 2014 on a high note, which included a win in the Woody Stephens (G2), Haskell Invitational (G1), Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and closing out the year with the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) victory.

    This year Shah’s contender had no problem making the Kentucky Derby field. Dortmund stands second on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 170 points. The Big Brown colt is undefeated in six starts, which include wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), Robert B. Lewis (G3), the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1).

    Dortmund’s performance in the Robert B. Lewis may be one of the gutsier moves of any in the Kentucky Derby field. Battling fellow Kentucky Derby contender Firing Line the entire length of the Santa Anita stretch, it appeared Dortmund was beaten as Firing Line got his head in front. With Dortmund on the rail and Firing Line to his outside, Dortmund persevered and came back on his rival to snatch victory by a head.

    “That obviously proves that he’s got a big heart,” Shah said of Dortmund’s performance. “It takes a horse with a certain demeanor, and speed and class to be undefeated, six for six so far. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I’m very hopeful that he will do well for himself. That Bob Lewis, the way he came back after being passed by Firing Line, just proves the quality of the horse that he is.”

    Dortmund will certainly be tested in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby when he takes on one of the more consistent and talented fields drawn in recent years. Most notably, Dortmund will have to battle his equally-talented stablemate American Pharoah. Regardless of the outcome, Shah will take it in stride.

    “It’s out of my control,” Shah remarked, “If it’s meant to be to be it will be meant to be. This has been my approach in life. I’ve been so blessed; I have no reason to complain about anything.”

    Photo: J. Oswald

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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