PACIFIC CLASSIC | PURSE: $1,000,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | GRADE 1 | 1 1/4-MILES
Shared Belief recorded his sixth victory from as many career starts while facing his sternest test to date -- Sunday's Grade 1, $1,001,250 Pacific Classic going 1 ¼ miles against older, more experienced runners.
That didn't stop the Candy Ride gelding from romping home by 2 ¾ lengths under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. The reinsman actually chose the Jerry Hollendorfer sophomore over defending Pacific Classic champion Game On Dude, and the move paid dividends as Shared Belief completed 10 furlongs over Del Mar's Polytrack in 2:00 1/5.
Game On Dude wired last year's Pacific Classic by 8 ½ lengths and appeared well on his way to doing so once again on the backstretch. The seven-year-old gelding and pilot Martin Garcia, who was aboard for the 2013 triumph, rocketed to the front when the gates opened and proceeded through fractions of :22 ⅖ seconds and :45 ⅗ seconds. During that period, Game On Dude had company in the form of Mystery Train, but that rival soon retreated on the backstretch.
Shared Belief, meanwhile, was in no hurry. Smith kept the dark bay out of trouble, letting him settle in midpack outside of Majestic Harbor heading into the backstretch. They dropped back a bit more to run in between horses, about 6 ½ lengths behind Game On Dude who kept motoring on the front end through splits of 1:10 and 1:35.
Toast of New York was the first to begin his run and headed after the longtime leader entering the turn. He soon found company, though, as Shared Belief hit the gas and appeared on the outside. The three-year-olds collared Game On Dude on the final turn, and there was a brief moment when Shared Belief came in a bit. Toast of New York took up even though there was still running room between his rivals and swung outside of Shared Belief.
The duo easily passed Game On Dude and powered home, with Shared Belief proving best to remain unbeaten and improve his lifetime earnings to $1,372,200. He is campaigned by Jim Rome's Jungle Racing LLC, Hollendorfer and other partners.
There was a steward's inquiry into the Shared Belief/Toast of New York incident, but no change was made. U.A.E. Derby hero Toast of New York took second by 2 ¼ lengths over Imperative, who came running to stick his neck in front of Game On Dude for third. Irish Surf followed in fifth while Majestic Harbor, Ice Cream Truck, You Know I Know, Mystery Train and Clubhouse Ride completed the order under the wire.
Shared Belief joins a select group of three-year-olds to have won the Pacific Classic. Thirteen sophomores had been sent postward in 23 prior runnings of the race, with four of them proving victorious: Best Pal (in the inaugural 1991 event), General Challenge (1999), Came Home (2002) and Dullahan (2012).
Shared Belief adds the Pacific Classic to a resume that already includes the Hollywood Prevue, CashCall Futurity and Los Alamitos Derby. He made a name for himself in California last year, breaking his maiden by seven lengths for trainer J.B. Josephson before being purchased privately and transferred to Hollendorfer. A month later he made his stakes debut in the Hollywood Prevue and once again encountered no threat when pulling away to a 7 ¾-length score.
The dark bay gelding closed out his juvenile campaign with a 5 ¾-length win in the CashCall Futurity while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles, and just a month later found himself honored as the champion two-year-old male of 2013 at the Eclipse Award ceremony.
The Kentucky-bred was scheduled to return in the Robert B. Lewis in early February at Santa Anita Park, but foot problems plagued the young champion and he was eventually sidelined. Off since since his CashCall Futurity score, he returned to the worktab on April 15 at Golden Gate Fields, covering three furlongs in :38 ⅖ seconds.
Shared Belief continued to work regularly over the Tapeta before finally entering the starting gate for the first time since December in a May 26 allowance at Golden Gate Fields. He wired that six-furlong contest and stretched out to 1 ⅛ miles for the Los Alamitos Derby last out. That proved an easy obstacle to overcome as he pulled off for a 4 ¼-length score.
The 10 furlongs of Sunday's Pacific Classic proved no detriment, either. Shared Belief's ability to handle the distance will come in handy as he earned a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the 1 ¼-mile Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 1, a shot at another Eclipse Award and possibly even Horse of the Year honors.
Shared Belief originally raced for his breeders, Pam and Marty Wygod, and is out of the winning Storm Cat mare Common Hope. That mare is also responsible for Grade 3 victress Little Miss Holly and the stakes-placed Double Major, herself the dam of stakes-placed winner Major Hope.
Common Hope is a half-sister to Grade 1 queen Key Phrase, who produced stakes-winning sire Yankee Gentleman and is ancestress of Grade 2 scorer Half Ours and Grade 3 heroine Khancord Kid. Also of note in this female line are English champion two-year-old filly *Rich and Rare II and 1999 Canadian champion three-year-old filly Gandria.