Like many who work in the Thoroughbred industry or are merely fans of the sport, Jason Litt's introduction came through family.
“My dad was a big fan,” said Litt, a partner in the Solis/Litt bloodstock agency and a partner in Shared Belief, who ranks as the No. 1 horse in North America by virtue of 2015 victories in the Grade 2 San Antonio and G1 Santa Anita Handicap. “He grew up on the East Coast and the family ran a small grocery store. My grandfather would take some money from the register and disappear to the racetrack. He was not a good handicapper, but Dad was good with numbers. He started going to the track and bought into a horse with a group of guys at Bowie.”
The Litts moved west to the San Francisco area and racing became a family affair. “We went to the track a lot,” Litt recalled. “We would even do Thanksgiving Day at Bay Meadows. I remember going through the buffet line for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a pretty unique experience.”
Litt's father, Howard, wound up getting more involved in horse ownership in the Bay Area, investing in some yearlings with Jerry Hollendorfer and one of the trainer's main clients, George Todaro. Globalize, a son of Summer Squall purchased for $80,000 at the 1998 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, had some success for the partners, winning four of his first seven starts in Northern California, then shipping to Kentucky to win the G2 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
Globalize was Kentucky Derby bound.
Jason Litt, meanwhile, had finished college and graduate school (he studied exercise physiology and cardiac rehabilitation) and returned to Northern California not knowing what he wanted to do professionally. A conversation with his father changed that.
“He went to Kentucky for the Derby and said “You're not going to believe what exists there,” Litt said. Though Globalize was scratched from the Derby after getting kicked by a pony jogging one morning, some of the Derby Fever Howard Litt caught was passed on to his son.
Jason Litt packed his belongings into his car and headed to the Bluegrass State.
He got his first break when Taylor Made gave him a job, working at the Nicholasville farm for a year before catching on with veterinarians Mark Cheney, Foster Northrop and Bo Landry. Then Litt joined the bloodstock team at Three Chimneys, working alongside, in Litt's words, “the famous” John Hamilton.
“For that part of the game (client recruitment), John is the best in the business,” Litt said. “He is amazing. He has that ability to hear 'no' all the time, dust himself off and go on to the next one.”
On one of his trips west to Del Mar, Litt met Alex Solis II, who was beginning to do some bloodstock work. The two began working together and formalized the business relationship after Litt left Three Chimneys in 2010.
It was Solis who had an October 2013 conversation with Hollendorfer that led to the private purchase of Shared Belief by Hollendorfer, Jim and Janet Rome's Jungle Racing, George and Jane Todaro, Kevin and Kim Nish and Solis and Litt.
“We had a few horses with Jerry, and Alex stopped by the barn early one morning,” Litt said. “Jerry mentioned that he had a horse (named Time Jumper) who had run that weekend in a maiden race he thought he was going to win. He got beat by Shared Belief.”
Bred and owned by Marty and Pam Wygod, Shared Belief was trained by Jedd Josephson, but after the impressive win the Wygods decided the gelded son of Candy Ride belonged in Southern California. Wygod told Hollendorfer he was sending Shared Belief his way, but that he had already gotten an offer from a third-party to buy the gelding.
“Alex called me,” Litt said, “and we made an offer right then. It was a lot of money for a gelding that just broke his maiden at Golden Gate. The deal got done in less than 24 hours.”
The timing was right to get another horse, as Rome and partners were getting ready to sell 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection (who would repeat in the 2013 edition).
“We thought we might have a horse for the Hollywood Prevue (which Shared Belief won),” said Litt.
They got a lot more than that. Shared Belief won the G1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park and was named the 2013 2-year-old male champion.
Time Jumper, incidentally, the Hollendorfer maiden who finished second to Shared Belief, needed eight more starts before he would break his maiden. He is currently 1-for-12, while Shared Belief has an enviable record of 10 wins from 11 starts.
The triumphs have come despite ongoing problems with Shared Belief's feet, one reason he trains on the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields.
“The horse does not have great feet,” said Litt. “I think it is amazing what Janet Hollendorfer and Jerry have done with this horse. I cannot overstate that enough. In a lot of other barns, people would not be able to pull this together. What Janet and Jerry have done with this horse is an amazing training feat.”
Litt said the decision to stay in the United States this year and forego a trip to Dubai for the 2015 World Cup does not rule out going there in future years.
“We have a 4-year-old gelding and the hope is to run him for years,” he said. “It's a daunting task to go to Dubai. If you go there and his feet don't handle the track well, we miss a chunk of the year. That's what happened last year.
“The money part of it (the Dubai World Cup has a $10-million purse) is something you think about, but in the bigger picture, we all live in the U.S. and have some great racing. To win the Santa Anita Handicap is an incredible honor.”
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