MIKE SMITH, SHARED BELIEF, WINNER: “I can’t even describe that performance. He ranks right up there with the top five horses I have ever been on, with room to grow. It really was so impressive. There’s no telling what this horse can do or the potential that he can reach. I think he still has room to grow.
“I’m just happy to be riding him. I learned something about him today. I’m numb right now. I’d like to see what the final time was because it felt like we flew.
“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 hands. We were pushing at each other but then we settled into a nice pace. At first I thought California Chrome was getting away from me and I know that when he switches leads he has another gear. It wasn’t good enough today but not only was it not good enough but I don’t have words to describe what Shared Belief did. Hopefully they get to meet again. They’re two great champions, they’re going to battle back and forth. Hopefully we see a race between the three of them again, Shared Belief, California Chrome and Bayern.
“I would say this is the best he’s ever run but I would also say this is the best he’s ever looked. He’s not very tall but he’s made really well and he had more flesh on him today than normal. He works very fast (for that track) up at Golden Gate Fields.
“I thought I got away good today; sometimes he can break a little slow. They just broke really fast and California Chrome and Alfa Bird broke really fast.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA, CALIFORNIA CHROME, SECOND: “I had a good trip. For two months off, it was a good race for him, a good effort. He will be better the next race.
(Did you feel Shared Belief coming up on the outside?) “I know I had him right behind us. I was trying to open it up on him as much as I could turning from home. California Chrome just got a little tired the last 20 yards. It was an awesome race. He was running. I could feel him tire on me over the last 20 yards. But I think it’s normal. It’s the first time he’s run this year; he was out for two months. 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.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, SHARED BELIEF, WINNER: “The race kind of came up on paper like we thought it would. We got lucky that way. We wanted to be around third early. Mike (Smith) said if he came away from there and shot to the lead, he might try that. But it ended up the way we talked about it, so that was real good.
“I was thinking you’re going to have to go get him (when California Chrome opened up turning into the stretch) 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 that Santa Anita Handicap next ($1 million, Grade I, 1 ¼ miles on March 7) for sure. I couldn’t argue against it (this being his finest performance). I think you could make a case for a couple of races, but this one would be hard to argue against.
“He’s still a young horse and he’s going to mature some more and I think the people who looked at him today can see that he was carrying a little more weight. 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.
Asked about any vindication at this time: “No, I’m just happy to win this race and that’s the honest truth. I don’t care what happened before. I care what happened right now and what happens in the future. California Chrome has a big following, deservedly so. He deserved to be Horse of the Year. If things had gone a little bit different, I might have got a chance, but you can’t always get things to go your way . . . I’m proud of Art (Sherman) and his horse, and I’m very proud of my horse and my partnership.
“I think the fans were into it and I know a lot of people were looking across the nation and that’s what we need, a great race to help things out . . . I thought Chrome’s rider moved at the right time and got to the lead at the right time. He was just saying come and get me and we came and got him and that’s the way it played out today . . .They are two great horses and they’ll probably meet up again, so we’ll what happens. It’s a long year.”
ART SHERMAN, CALIFORNIA CHROME, SECOND: “You saw two of the best handicap horses in the country. We’ll see how he cools out. Dubai is still on the table. We had a helluva turnout here today at Santa Anita to see California Chrome and the match up. We are looking forward to a match up again down the line. Jerry’s horse is the real McCoy. My horse is very good, too; we just got outrun. Jerry’s horse was sitting in the garden spot; it was a great race. My horse ran his heart out and I’m proud of my horse. He didn’t give up; he ran his eyeballs out.”
JANET ROME, SHARED BELIEF CO-OWNER, WINNER: “This is so much fun. I’m only disappointed Jim couldn’t be here for the big race. He’s had faith in Shared Belief ever since Alex Solis II found this horse for us. He always believed this was THE horse.
“Unfortunately, at the end of last year we didn’t have good luck in the Breeders’ Cup but we knew he could do it. We feel so fortunate to be a part of this horse and to have Mike Smith . . . we couldn’t ask for a better jockey, a Hall of Fame jockey. And, of course Jerry Hollendorfer, also a Hall of Famer and we have great partners. This has been great for our family, we feel so fortunate.
“I was nervous, I woke up nervous this morning. I had a feeling Mike was holding back a little bit. I was hoping he would give it his all going into the stretch and that’s the thing about Shared Belief, he’s all heart. He’s showed us that through every race, everything we’ve asked of him.
“Jim is in St. Louis. He made a commitment to one of his sponsors last summer and of course he was going to honor that.”
NOTES: The winning owners Jungle Racing (Jim and Janet Rome of Los Angeles); Jerry Hollendorfer of Point Richmond, CA; George Todaro of Seattle; Alex Solis III of Glendale; and Jason Litt of Lexington, Ky.
Today’s on-track attendance was 21,522.