Stuck wide every step of the way, odds-on choice Shared Belief stayed unbeaten in seven starts with a neck victory over a game Fed Biz in the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 27 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
Shared Belief gave up much ground while ridden to a gutty victory by Mike Smith, who came back from a spill in the preceding race to guide the smallish 3-year-old Candy Ride gelding. After surviving this dogfight, Shared Belief could very well be the horse to beat in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is a part owner of Shared Belief in partnership with Jim and Janet Rome's Jungle Racing, Jason Litt, Alex Solis II, George Todaro, and Kevin and Kim Nish's KMN Racing.
It was the closest finish in the career of Shared Belief, a smashing 2 3/4-length winner of the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) Aug. 24.
"He didn't seem to be getting hold of the track that well," Hollendorfer said. "We're very happy to get the win. Hopefully, this race will set him up well for the next one."
Making his career debut at Santa Anita, Shared Belief was timed in 1:48.58 for the 1 1/8-mile distance. Fed Biz was second, with 34-1 outsider Footbridge third.
Shared Belief appeared to be the focus of a bit of gamesmanship early as he was fanned wide through the stretch the first time and into the clubhouse turn by outsider Sky Kingdom, stablemate to the Bob Baffert-trained Fed Biz ridden by Victor Espinoza. Shared Belief remained five wide up the backstretch as Smith gave the 1-5 favorite a breather into the far turn, and remained on the extreme outside rounding the bend as Smith put last year's male juvenile champion to the drive.
"They tried to use some tactics on me which made the win today even sweeter," Smith said. "They just kept taking me wide, taking me wide, and I believe if you want to press the pace or take me out a little bit, OK. But doing it at all costs just to get me beat isn't the way it should be done. It was to the extreme, I thought it was ridiculous. You just don't do that."
Shared Belief gained a head advantage at the furlong marker over the speedy Fed Biz and prevailed in an all-out battle under strong urging from Smith.
Asked if he thought he was "double-teamed" by the Baffert horses, Hollendorfer responded: "We're all big boys…It's no big deal for me. Mike will have to settle up with Victor."
Fed Biz, who broke from the rail for Martin Garcia, battled another outsider, Mystery Train, for the lead through quarter mile fractions of :22.84, :46.52, and 1:10.59 before getting a slight advantage in the stretch. Fed Biz battled back valiantly when confronted by Shared Belief and the two dueled all the way to the wire in a terrific finish.
"It looked like we had him. Shared Belief, he's just a really good horse," Baffert said. "Everything was going well for (Fed Biz), but Mystery Train, he has a way of messing up the pace, like he did for the second time (in the Pacific Classic with Game On Dude). It's a shame, because (Fed Biz) did all the hard work. But you have to give credit to Shared Belief. It looked like we had him. Fed Biz dug in and tried to beat him. We got beat and it was a great race."
The victory was Shared Belief's second over a dirt track following the Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II) at Los Alamitos Race Course July 5. His other wins are over synthetic surfaces. The concern in the Shared Belief camp has to be how much the race took out of Shared Belief with just five weeks remaining before the biggest test of his career in the BC Classic.
"It's not the worst thing in the world to have a tough race and be double-fit for the Breeders' Cup," Hollendorfer said. "That race will be tougher so we'll need to be tougher, too."
The dark bay gelding was purchased by Hollendorfer privately from owners/breeders Pam and Marty Wygod after he debuted at Golden Gate Fields last Oct. 19, taking a six-furlong maiden special weight by seven lengths. After missing the Triple Crown campaign with a foot injury that was slow to heal, Shared Belief has now won all four of his starts this year.
The winning share of $180,000 boosted Shared Beleif's career bankroll to $1,552,200.
Under 121 pounds, Shared Belief paid $2.40, $2.20, and $2.10 across the board. He topped a chalky $8.20 exacta with second choice Fed Biz, who was coming out of a runner-up effort in the Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. II) and returned $3.60 and $3.20. Footbridge, sent off at 34-1 odds, was 2 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.80.
Majestic Harbor ran fourth, followed by Imperative, Mystery Train, and Sky Kingdom.
Read more on BloodHorse.com:http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/87641/shared-belief-goes-overland-in-awesome-again#ixzz3EZFnF91C