MIKE SMITH, SHARED BELIEF, WINNER: “He broke extremely well today which I was really, really happy with. He didn’t go real quick the first quarter mile but we really picked it up from then on; it was a horse race.
“I don’t know if people really understand how difficult it is to go from a mile and a quarter back to seven eighths. It’s really hard to do. It takes a special kind of horse; he’s that, and maybe more.
“I truly believe he would be undefeated right now if you take the start of the BC Classic out of it. I got beat three lengths and I lost at least seven or eight leaving the gate and on down the track. I was carried out wide after that as well. I certainly would have liked to have seen us undefeated right now and then there wouldn’t be a question about Horse of the Year right now.
“This race proved what a great horse he is, just by doing what he did. To run route races, then to come back to seven eighths against top sprinters . . . To me, that puts a big feather in his cap and puts him in front for Horse of the Year. I think this put him ahead of the rest.
“He has gained some weight, his neck is even thicker, the energy he has . . . I think all that puts us right on target for this coming year.”
JOE TALAMO, CONQUEST TWO STEP, SECOND: It’s a shame. He ran great. He ran a winning race. He was fighting with a champion at the end and he gave it his all. He was trying. That Shared Belief was pretty nice. When I got to him, he was fighting me off pretty good. He ran his best and tried hard.”
JOEL ROSARIO, CHITU, THIRD: “Good trip. He broke well, I took the lead and that’s exactly what he liked to do. The other horses were chasing me for a little bit on the outside. They caught me at the end. Gary’s horse (Indianapolis) was hanging on the outside. I thought he’d leave me alone for a little bit, but it’s racing. What are you going to do?”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, SHARED BELIEF, WINNER: “He was sitting in a good spot, and he was in between horses, but really, I was watching and never had any doubts that he would get out and come running down the lane. Once the horses have been getting on the outside today, they’ve been running very well.”
Asked about the $500,000 San Antonio on Feb. 7: “We’re looking at a couple of different things and I’ll talk it over with Alex (Solis III) and with Jim (Rome) and my other partners and we’ll try and make a decent decision.”
Asked if this win helped alleviate the Breeders’ Cup Classic loss: “We put all that behind us and just concentrated on winning this race. Now we’ll start concentrating on what we want to do next and getting him ready for his next endeavor.”
Asked if he felt “gypped at all” about what happened in the Classic: “We put all that behind us. There’s nothing we can do about what happened and so we forget about it and just remember that he’s a good horse and we came back and won, so I feel like he really justified himself today.”
Asked about Horse of the Year: “I don’t vote on Horse of the Year but all the other folks can take a look and see what they think.” Chimed in part owner Alex Solis III: “They run the race (Breeders’ Cup Classic) again next year. Don’t worry.”
ALEX SOLIS III, PART OWNER: “Jerry’s done the job from the beginning and he had him ready for today. They ran fast and he’s a good horse.”
JIM ROME, PART OWNER: “I’ve got a nine-year-old (son) who says good times never get old. I’ve done this long enough to fully appreciate what it means to have a horse who’s a Grade I stakes winner and we don’t take it for granted.
“It was an awesome, awesome day, and sometimes people are disappointed because he didn’t win by open lengths and think, ‘What’s the matter? Maybe he’s not all that (good).’ The horse just won a Grade I cutting way back (in distance) and did it with a lot of grit and a lot of moxey and I could not be more proud of Shared Belief. I love this horse.”
BOB BAFFERT, CHITU/THIRD, INDIANAPOLIS/FOURTH, AND MIDNIGHT HAWK/TENTH: “Chitu was dueling with my other horse (Indianapolis), but that’s what happens when you run all these horses together. The only horse that didn’t run at all was Midnight Hawk; he was a disappointment. He didn’t run his race and looked flat.
“With a Grade I race it’s always competitive and unfortunately we didn’t win. I wanted to race Indianapolis in this race versus the Daytona because it’s a Grade I. He runs well on dirt so I wanted to give him another opportunity. We weren’t sure about the grass race (Daytona) and he had been training well. It looked at the three-eighths pole like he was going to run a big race.”
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.