When the gates closed for Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, Shared Belief was 1-5, far shorter than the other 12 horses to face him. The gelding lived up to those odds, looming large on Santa Anita's far turn and drawing off with ease to score his third straight stakes victory.
Shared Belief broke swiftly and settled comfortably behind the leaders under jockey Mike Smith. Up front, Moreno led the way, with Sr. Quisqueyano tracking close in second. The Big 'Cap horses ran the first quarter in :23 flat, then the half-mile in :46.56 and six furlongs in 1:10.89. By the time a mile went by in 1:35.56, Shared Belief was in command, drawing clear to win by open lengths.
“He surprises me every time. I have to pinch myself that I get to be his pilot,” said Mike Smith. “It's Zenyatta, Holy Bull and then Shared Belief for me. I'm so blessed to have been able to ride all those great horses and to be the age I am and still be able to do this is a blessing.
Moreno finished second, and Catch a Flight was third. Final time for ten furlongs was 2:00.67.
Jerry Hollendorfer trains Shared Belief for a partnership that includes Jungle Racing LLC, KMN Racing LLC, Hollendorfer, Litt, Solis II and Todaro. The 4-year-old has now come out on top in 10 of his 11 starts.
“I think everybody was pretty calm and collected [when asked about the pressure of being such a prohibitive favorite]. Shared Belief makes us look good, and he did it easy,” Hollendorfer said. “I'm just so grateful to have a horse like this. You never expect it (to have a horse considered the best in the country), so I'm very pleased to have this horse and hope that we can keep him racing well like he has been.”
A champion at two, Shared Belief entered last year's Breeders' Cup Classic undefeated but finished fourth behind fellow sophomores Bayern, Toast of New York, and California Chrome. He was right back to winning ways in the G1 Malibu Stakes Dec. 26, then followed that victory up by defeating California Chrome in the G2 San Antonio Invitational Feb. 7.
“We love the horse and we want to keep the horse close to home,” said co-owner Jim Rome. “Dubai is an amazing race and an amazing opportunity but hopefully it will always be there and I just want to celebrate the moment. I couldn't be more proud of him.”
It was an unprecedented third straight victory in the Santa Anita Handicap for Mike Smith, who won aboard Game On Dude in 2013 and 2014.
On-track attendance at Santa Anita Saturday was reported at 26,134.
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