ARCADIA, Calif. (March 4, 2015)–America’s top rated older horse, once-beaten Shared Belief, towers over a field of 13 older horses set to compete in the 78th running of the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino at a mile and quarter this Saturday.
With his only defeat coming as the result of a controversial start in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1, Shared Belief comes off a facile win over reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome in the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles San Antonio Invitational on Feb. 7, his ninth win from 10 career starts.
A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Candy Ride, Shared Belief has tactical speed, tremendous heart and has proven himself at 1 ¼ miles, as he was an impressive 2 ¾ length winner of the Grade I Pacific Classic, run over synthetic polytrack, on Aug. 24 at Del Mar.
A 1 ½ length victor over California Chrome in the San Antonio, he hit the wire with his ears pricked and it appeared regular rider Mike Smith had plenty in reserve. Owned in-part and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Shared Belief is based at Golden Gate Fields on the East San Francisco Bay, with Hollendorfer’s wife, Janet. As is his custom, Shared Belief worked Tuesday morning with Russell Baze up, covering a half mile in 50.80, and vanned to Santa Anita Wednesday morning.
Hollendorfer, who won the 2008 Big ‘Cap with Heatseeker, will be bidding for his second win in America’s longest continually run “Hundred Grander,” while Smith, who won the race in 2013 & ’14 with Game On Dude, will be seeking an unprecedented third consecutive Big ‘Cap win.
In addition to Hollendorfer, Shared Belief is owned by Jim and Janet Rome’s Jungle Racing, LLC, KMN Racing, LLC, Alex Solis II, Jason Litt and George Todaro. Shared Belief, who ended up running a very respectable fourth, beaten 3 ¾ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, has earnings of $2,332,200.
Trainer John Sadler seeks his first-ever Santa Anita Handicap win with Louisiana invader Hard Aces, who comes off a rousing four length minor stakes win going 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Jan. 17. The 5-year-old horse by Hard Spun earned a career-best 104 Beyer Speed figure and was sold privately to Sadler’s main client, Hronis Racing, LLC. A winner of five races from 19 starts, Hard Aces has a stalking style and will be trying 1 ¼ miles for the first time. He’ll be ridden by Victor Espinoza and he has earnings of $215,145.
The formidable trainer/rider combination of Richard Mandella and Gary Stevens will combine forces with Argentine-bred Catch a Flight, who comes off a neck victory in a 1 1/8 miles allowance test at Santa Anita on Feb. 13. A 5-year-old horse by Giant’s Causeway, Catch a Flight, who was a 7 ½ length allowance winner going 1 3/16 miles in Brazil a year ago, will make his third stateside start in the Big ‘Cap and he appears on the improve for Mandella, who has thought highly of him since his arrival last fall.
A physically imposing bay, Catch a Flight has seven wins from 12 starts. Should he win on Saturday, Catch a Flight would provide Mandella with his fourth Big ‘Cap win, while Stevens would get his fifth.
Trainer Neil Drysdale’s Chilean-bred Bronzo, who was ridden by Stevens in his last two starts on Jan. 10 and Feb. 7, will be handled for the first time by Tyler Baze on Saturday. A Group I winner in Chile 10 months ago, this 6-year-old gelding made his U.S. debut three starts back in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 31, rallying from off the pace to finish fourth, beaten seven lengths by eventual Eclipse Champion miler Goldencents. Owned by Don Alberto Stable, Bronzo has two wins from three starts at a mile and a quarter and is 22-11-1-4 overall with earnings of $303,002. It’s expected Bronzo will lag early in the Big ‘Cap and hope to come running late.
THE REMAINDER OF THE BIG ‘CAP FIELD:
DYNAMIC SKY–Although this 5-year-old Canadian-bred has raced on turf in his last eight starts, he’s in good form and his connections, trainer Mark Casse and jockey Corey Nakatani, must be respected. Nakatani, who won back to back Big ‘Caps with Lava Man in 2006-07, has become a solid fit with Casse, who came to California on a full-time basis this past summer. A graded stakes winner on turf, distance is no question for this long-fused son of Sky Mesa, and one of his five career wins came on dirt.
PATRIOTICANDPROUD–Also trained by Casse, he was a sharp second in a pair of Grade II turf stakes, the Hollywood Turf Cup and the San Gabriel Stakes on Nov. 27 and Jan. 3. However, he flattened out through the stetch in the Grade II San Marcos Stakes at 1 ¼ miles on turf Feb. 7. Although winless from four tries on dirt, the 6-year-old Proud Citizen gelding has proven effective at 1 ¼ miles and beyond on both turf and synthetic.
COOL SAMURAI–This lightly raced 4-year-old gelding comes off a good second place finish in a one mile allowance behind stakes winner Midnight Hawk on Feb. 6 and has done little wrong for the “Zenyatta connections” of owner/breeders Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs. Although he’s been a attentive to the pace in his last three starts, Cool Samurai rallied from far off the pace to break his maiden going a flat mile in his second start on Dec. 27, 2013, and new pilot Aaron Gryder may opt to employ similar tactics when trying a mile and a quarter for the first time on Saturday. He’s 6-2-2-1 overall with earnings of $112,750.
SR. QUISQUEYANO–A winner of the 1 1/8 miles Sunshine Millions Classic versus Florida-breds on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park, this 5-year-old horse by Exclusive Quality earned a career best 102 Beyer Speed figure and will thus make his Southern California debut in the Big ‘Cap. Trained by Florida-based Peter Walder, Sr. Quisqueyano has an impressive overall resume of 29-8-6-3, with earnings of $713,560. Owned by Loooch Racing Stables, Inc., he’ll be ridden for the first time by Joe Talamo.
MORENO–Dedicated front-runner has been idle since well beaten in the Breeders’ Cup Classic Nov. 1, a race in which he was slammed hard at the break and taken out of his preferred, pacesetting game. A Grade I winning 5-year-old gelding by Ghostzapper, he’s a fresh and potentially dangerous horse who could try to steal away on a lonely lead. An upset winner of the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Whitney Stakes at Saratoga four starts back on Aug. 2, he has an overall mark of 23-3-7-3. Owned by Southern Equine Stables, LLC and trained by Eric Guillot, Moreno has earnings of $1,834,940.
CRIMSON GIANT–By any accounting, he’s a giant enigma, as his lone win came 57 starts back on Nov. 6, 2011. A 6-year-old California-bred gelding by Formal Gold, Crimson Giant comes off the best race of his career, a nose defeat in a third condition one mile allowance on Feb. 20. Trained by Charlie Stutts and owned by his breeder, Bryan Carney, Crimson Giant earned a career-best 88 Beyer Speed figure when ridden for the first time by apprentice Brandon Boulanger. A maiden $40,000 claiming winner on Nov. 6, 2011, the ever-busy Crimson Giant, who will be making his seventh start of the current Winter Meet, is 66-1-5-15 overall with earnings of $172,642.
IMPERATIVE–Although he earned more than $1.2 million last year following a $50,000 claim on Dec. 21, 2013, this 5-year-old gelding by Bernardini has tailed off badly of late, as he’s lost his last three races, the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1, the Group I Champions Cup in Japan on Dec. 7, and the Grade II San Antonio Invitational on Feb. 7, by a combined 33 ¼ lengths. Trained by George Papaprodromou and owned by KM Racing Enterprise, Inc., he has two third place finishes from four tries at 1 ¼ miles and would seem best suited if he can get a stalking trip. Imperative is 22-3-4-3 overall with earnings of $1,340,870.
YOU KNOW I KNOW–Trainer John Sadler’s “Avis” choice, he basically split the field in the nine-horse San Antonio on Feb. 7, finishing 8 ½ lengths behind Shared Belief. He gets in light with 115 pounds and will be ridden back by newly turned journeyman Drayden Van Dyke. Well beaten by Shared Belief two starts back in the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles Pacific Classic on Aug. 24, he was third, beaten 8 ½ lengths, in the 2013 Pacific Classic. A deep closer, he’ll hope for a fast early pace. Owned by Chacon and Mangini, Jr., the 6-year-old gelding by Simon Pure is 25-5-1-6 overall with earnings of $398,355.
DIAMOND BACHELOR–An impeccably bred 4-year-old colt by War Front, he has yet to meet expectations. A good second two starts back on turf in the Grade II, 1 ¼ miles San Marcos Stakes Feb. 7, he exits a disappointing seventh place run in a 1 ¼ miles turf allowance Feb. 27. Although he has yet to validate his $570,000 2-year-old in training sale purchase price, he has plenty of natural speed and will be ridden by Martin Pedroza, who pulled off a 50-1 shocker in the 1989 ‘Big Cap with Martial Law. Trained by Patrick Biancone, Diamond Bachelor has two wins from 17 starts and earnings of $189,270.
The complete field for the Santa Anita Handicap, to be run as the 11th and final race Saturday, with jockeys, weights and morning line odds in post position order: Cool Samurai, Aaron Gryder, 114, 30-1; Diamond Bachelor, Martin Pedroza, 114, 50-1; Sr. Quisqueyano, Joe Talamo, 115, 10-1; Dynamic Sky, Corey Nakatani, 117, 15-1; Shared Belief, Mike Smith, 125, 3-5; Moreno, Santiago Gonzalez, 121, 6-1; Patrioticandproud, Elvis Trujillo, 116, 20-1; You Know I Know, Drayden Van Dyke, 115, 30-1; Crimson Giant, Brandon Boulanger, 114, 50-1; Imperative, Kent Desormeaux, 117, 30-1; Bronzo, Tyler Baze, 117, 10-1; Catch a Flight, Gary Stevens, 114, 12-1, and Hard Aces, Victor Espinoza, 115, 12-1.