March 9, 2015
Source: DRF (Jay Privman)

ARCADIA, Calif. – Every journey begins with a first step. No one knows that more than the connections of Shared Belief, who were keenly aware of what happened the last time Shared Belief had run 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita. He was wiped out at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It seemed something similarly disastrous was about the only way he could lose the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.

So that was what jockey Mike Smith and Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains and co-owns Shared Belief, discussed. The first jump. Get out cleanly, and take it from there.

“Those first two or three steps,” Smith said.

Shared Belief got away cleanly this time. After that, the 12 horses who lined up against him were in trouble. Smith got Shared Belief into the clear heading into the first turn, set sail after pacesetting Moreno on the final turn, and proceeded to coast to the easiest of wins before an appreciative crowd of 26,134.

“He won with something left today,” Smith said. “He won with a whole lot left. The race didn’t take much out of him.”

Shared Belief checked in 4 1/4 lengths in front of Moreno, who bravely held off Catch a Flight by a head for second. The margin could have been much more, but Shared Belief was carrying the heaviest impost of his 11-race career, 125 pounds, and Smith didn’t want to rub it in and invite even more weight if he runs in another handicap later this year.

Hard Aces was fourth and was followed, in order, by Bronzo, Dynamic Sky, You Know I Know, Imperative, Sr. Quisqueyano, Cool Samurai, Patrioticandproud, Diamond Bachelor, and Crimson Giant.

Shared Belief completed 1 1/4 miles on the fast main track in 2:00.67. He paid $2.60 to win, equaling Spectacular Bid, in 1980, as the second-smallest win payoff in Santa Anita Handicap history. Round Table paid $2.30 when he won in 1958.

The victory was the 10th in 11 starts for Shared Belief, who has now won five Grade 1 races, including at ages 2, 3, and 4, every year he has been on the racetrack. His only loss came in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, when he was clobbered at the start and then had to avoid severe traffic less than a furlong into the race.

“It’s something you don’t expect,” Hollendorfer said of Shared Belief’s remarkable consistency. “Horses have their ups and downs. He’s happy and remains enthusiastic.”

Smith said Shared Belief “warmed up so good, oozing confidence.” Starting from post 5 in the field of 13, he left straight and true, then Smith began a quarter-mile quest to get outside horses and not risk getting trapped. “He’s a dream to ride,” Smith said of Shared Belief’s responsiveness.

Shared Belief was outside horses heading down the backstretch, and was sixth with a half-mile to go. He accelerated sharply at that point, ranging up three paths wide, outside Sr. Quisqueyano and Catch a Flight. After passing them, the only horse left to catch was Moreno, who had gone six furlongs in 1:10.89 and a mile in 1:35.56 in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Shared Belief quickly passed Moreno, was up by three lengths a furlong out, and breezed home. He gave Smith his third straight victory in the Big Cap. He won the prior two runnings on Game On Dude.

“He was perfectly placed by Mike,” Hollendorfer said. “He put him in a perfect spot and moved when he wanted to.”

Hollendorfer’s partners in Shared Belief include Jim Rome, who is the majority owner, along with Alex Solis II, Jason Litt, George Todaro, and Kevin Nish. The partnership earlier this year decided not go point for the Dubai World Cup later this month, and that has not changed.

“The only one who overrules Jerry is nobody,” Rome said. Hollendorfer has never run any horse in any race in Dubai”

As for what’s next, Hollendorfer was non-committal. “We kind of pointed for this race,” he said.

Shared Belief has notoriously troublesome feet, the problems kept at bay recently by the care of Hollendorfer and his wife Janet, who oversees his day-to-day care at Golden Gate Fields, where Shared Belief trains on the synthetic Tapeta surface between starts.

It’s a lot of effort, but the payoff has been lucrative. The $600,000 winner’s share Saturday brought his career total to $2,932,200. And since Shared Belief is a gelding, the journey could continue for an awfully long time.

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