Shared Belief Wins Santa Anita Handicap

Dortmund ready to go in the winners' circle for the fifth time in a row. Photos by Terri Keith.

Dortmund ready to go in the winners’ circle for the fifth time in a row. Photos by Terri Keith.

Shared Belief before his Big Cap win.

Shared Belief before his Big Cap win

Shared Belief easily won the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap Saturday, bringing his record to 10 wins in 11 starts and solidifying his status as one of America’s top thoroughbreds.

The 4-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride – a heavy favorite over his 12 rivals – captured the Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile race by 4 ¼ lengths in 2:00.67, with a win bet paying his supporters $2.60.

Moreno, the 2014 Whitney victor, finished second, while the Richard Mandella trainee Catch A Flight was a head behind him in third.

Jockey Mike Smith, who has ridden Shared Belief in all but four of his races, called him “a dream to ride.”

He said he thought the 2013 Eclipse-winning 2-year-old male champ – whose only loss came after a troubled start in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic – was “probably at his best today really and won with a whole lot left.”

“He looked probably the best he’s ever looked, so no surprises other than, you know, he won as easy as he did,” Smith said. “And, I, honestly, and I’m not taking away (anything) against the competition, I geared him down a few times … He still won like that.”

Shared Belief’s trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, said he “makes us look good and he did it easy.”

“You know, horses get ups and downs and he just stays the same and he does whatever we ask him to do and he seems very happy and enthusiastic about it,” Hollendorfer said.

He said the thoroughbred’s connections “will try to make an intelligent decision” about where Shared Belief should race next, but he noted that they had decided earlier not to go to the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

One of Shared Belief’s owners, radio talk show host Jim Rome, said, “Honestly, I can’t speak for everybody. But, for myself, we love the horse, we love the horse and we want to keep the horse close to home.”

Rome called the world’s most lucrative race “an amazing opportunity that hopefully will always be there. Right now, I just want to celebrate the moment.”

The Big Cap was one of five stakes races that drew a crowd of just over 26,000 people to Santa Anita Park.

Dortmund remained undefeated with his fifth win in a row in the $400,000, Grade 2 San Felipe for trainer Bob Baffert.

When asked whether he thinks Dortmund or his stablemate, last year’s 2-year-old male champion American Pharoah, is better, Baffert quipped, “It’s like asking which kid I love more? Come on. They’re two different horses. They’re two really nice horses.”

Baffert said he expects Dortmund, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, to make his next start April 4 in the Santa Anita Derby.

“I saw the progression right after his last race,” Baffert said of Dortmund’s victory by a head last month over Firing Line in the Robert B. Lewis. “… The light went on. It was just flickering before, but now the light is on.”

Other winners included:

— Ring Weekend, who won the $400,000, Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf for trainer Graham Motion and jockey Drayden Van Dyke. It was the first Grade 1 win for Van Dyke, who won the Eclipse award for apprentice jockey.

— Wild Dude, who won the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes for Hollendorfer and jockey Rafael Bejarano.

— Singing Kitty, who won the China Doll Stakes at odds of nearly 20-1 for jockey Aaron Gryder and trainer Matthew Chew.

Horse Bits:

 Smith became the first jockey to win the Big Cap for three consecutive years. Smith told reporters afterward that he had been “blessed” to ride Game On Dude for his wins in 2013 and 2014 and Shared Belief this year.

 “Every time you hear about a Khozan getting hurt, it can happen to all of us,” Baffert said of trying to keep his potential Kentucky Derby runners healthy. “Right now, it’s like we’re all on pins and needles.”