By BETH HARRIS
AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Turns out the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap wasn’t much of a challenge for prohibitive favorite Shared Belief.
The 5-year-old dark bay gelding collared pacesetter Moreno on the turn for home and went on to win by 4 1/4 lengths Saturday, improving to 10-1 in his career.
Shared Belief ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.67 and paid $2.60, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 1-5 favorite of 26,134 fans.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith earned a record third consecutive Big `Cap victory, having won the previous two years aboard Game On Dude. He had Shared Belief in the middle of the pack much of the way before they went four horses wide to take the lead into the stretch.
“Not to take anything away from the competition, but I geared him down a few times and he still won like that,” Smith said. “I was watching the (infield) TV from the quarter-pole to the wire and I feel bad to say this, but I was trying to not win by so far. As they say, don’t squeeze a lemon if you don’t have to.”
Shared Belief’s only blemish is a loss in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic after a messy start last fall at Santa Anita. He finished fourth, losing by 3 3/4 lengths. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer marvels at his gelding’s consistency.
“Horses get ups and downs and he just stays the same and he does whatever we ask him to do,” he said. “He seems very happy and enthusiastic about it.”
Moreno returned $4.80 and $4.20 in his first start since getting slammed hard out of the starting gate in the BC Classic, while Catch a Flight was another head back in third and paid $4.20 to show. Hard Aces was fourth and Bronzo fifth.
Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, aboard Catch a Flight, fell beyond the finish line.
“He just tripped with me,” Stevens said. “He started to go down head-first and he caught himself. When he did, it shot me straight up in the air. I tried to tuck and I landed on my back. It knocked the wind out of me. I’m OK.”
Co-owned by sports talk host Jim Rome, Shared Belief was coming off a victory over reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome in the San Antonio Invitational exactly a month ago. The gelding is based in the San Francisco Bay area, so Rome doesn’t see him often.
“It’s like he shows up every single time _ he always runs big, is always tough and just has a lot of grit, a lot of heart,” Rome said. “He never disappoints.”
Hollendorfer earned his second Big `Cap win, and first since 2008. He is another of the gelding’s co-owners.
“I’m just so grateful to have a horse like this,” he said. “I’m very pleased to have this horse and hope that we can keep him racing well like he has been.”
Crimson Giant, a 6-year-old gelding, finished last in the 13-horse field in his virtually unheard of 67th career start. He has just one win to his credit.
There was $201,669 bet to place on Shared Belief.
The victory, worth $600,000, increased Shared Belief’s career earnings to $2,932,200.