ON-TRACK CROWD OF 21,522 SEE SHARED BELIEF GAIN FURTHER VINDICATON FOLLOWING CONTROVERSIAL BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC DEFEAT ON NOV. 1
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 7, 2015)–Let there be no doubt. Jerry Hollendorfer’s Shared Belief, a tough-luck loser of the Grade I, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 1, established himself as the nation’s top older horse with a convincing 1 ½ length win over reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome in Saturday’s Grade II, $500,000 San Antonio Invitational at Santa Anita, as he negotiated 1 1/8 miles under Mike Smith in 1:48.45.
With longshot Alpha Bird streaking to the lead from the far outside in a field of nine older horses, California Chrome, ridden by Victor Espinoza, settled into a comfortable second through the first half mile and assumed command going into the far turn with Shared Belief sitting a close third before he assumed second position approaching the quarter pole.
“I can’t even describe that performance,” said Smith, who is a member of Racing’s Hall of Fame and is the sport’s all-time winningest Breeders’ Cup jockey. “He ranks right up there with the top five horses I’ve ever been on, with room to grow…There’s no telling what this horse can do or the potential that he can reach.
“There was a little jockeying around that first turn between the three of us. We were just making each other decide what they were going to do without showing one another our (poker) hands…At first I thought California Chrome was getting away from me and I know that when he switches leads he has another gear…Hopefully they get to meet again. They’re two great champions. They’re going to battle back and forth.”
The solid favorite at even money, Shared Belief came off a seven furlong win in the Grade I Malibu Stakes Dec. 26 and paid $4.00, $2.40 and $2.10. Owned by Jim and Janet Rome’s Jungle Racing, LLC, KMN Racing, LLC, Hollendorfer, Jason Litt, Alex Solis II and George Todaro, Shared Belief’s only defeat came in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic which was marred by a controversial start. In taking the San Antonio, the 4-year-old Candy Ride gelding got his ninth win from 10 starts and with the winner’s share of $300,000, he increased his earnings to $2,332,200.
“The race kind of came up on paper like we thought it would,” said Hollendorfer. “We got lucky that way. We wanted to be around third (early). Mike said if he came away from there and shot to the lead, he might try to do that…
“I was thinking you’re going to have to go get him (California Chrome, when he opened up turning for home), and that’s what we had to do. Good for us we got to him in mid-stretch and then got past him. We’re thinking about the Santa Anita Handicap next (Grade I, $1 million on March 7) for sure.”
Hollendorfer also noted that Shared Belief’s San Antonio performance was probably his best race to date and “He’s still a young horse and he’s going to mature some more. I think people who looked at him today can see that he was carrying a little more (flesh). He’s still training on a regular schedule which is a little bit hard for these kinds of horses, and he’s gaining weight, not losing…They (Shared Belief and California Chrome) are two great horses and they’ll probably meet up again, so we’ll see what happens. It’s a long year.”
A winner of the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles turf Hollywood Derby on Nov. 29, California Chrome was the second choice at 7-5 and paid $2.80 and $2.20. Trained by Art Sherman, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning California Chrome was third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic two starts back and saw his record go to 17-9-2-1.
“You saw two of the best handicap horses in the country,” said Sherman of his California-bred stable star. “We’ll see how he cools out. Dubai is still on the table. We had a helluva turnout here today at Santa Anita (21,522 on-track) to see California Chrome and the matchup. We are looking forward to a matchup down the line. Jerry’s horse is the real McCoy. My horse is very good too, we just got out-run…He didn’t give it up, he ran his eyeballs out.”
Espinoza, who has been aboard “Chrome” in his last 11 starts, asserted that his horse would improve next time out.
“For (having) two months off, it was a good race for him, a good effort,” he said. “I was trying to open it up on him (Shared Belief) as much as I could turning for home. California Chrome, he just got a little tired the last 20 yards…In the last race (the Hollywood Derby), it was pretty easy for him. It didn’t take much out of him, so I think after this race and the next one, he’ll be a better horse…I can tell you for the next race, he’ll be good.”
A winner of the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 10, Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity made a threatening move around the far turn but finished third, 6 ½ lengths behind California Chrome and paid $2.60 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.65, 47.87, 1:12.49 and 1:36.45.
First post time for a nine-race card at Santa Anita on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.