Up the Backstretch: Shared Belief chasing HOY in Big ‘Cap?

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The 2014 finalists for Horse of the
Year did not include Shared Belief, but the 4-year-old gelding has the
opportunity next week to take a sizeable lead in this year’s HOY race.

Coming up on March 7 is the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, known as the Big
‘Cap, the first major race for older thoroughbreds. The Big ‘Cap was won for
the second straight year in 2014 by Game On Dude and has been won by some of
the biggest names in racing history: Seabiscuit, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid
among others.

Although run in early March, the Big ‘Cap offers the winning horse a leg up in
the end-of-year awards discussion, including Horse of the Year.

Shared Belief, trained and co-owned by Jerry Hollendorfer, is in position to
win the 1 1/4-mile Big ‘Cap and possibly wrap up HOY for 2015. The gelding
defeated reigning HOY California Chrome by 1 1/2 lengths in the San Antonio
Stakes as both 4-year-olds began their seasons.

Sent off as the even-money favorite, Shared Belief and Hall of Fame jockey Mike
Smith were caught wide in the San Antonio as California Chrome, the 7-5 second
pick, and rider Victor Espinoza appeared in control at the top of the stretch.

Shared Belief ran past California Chrome down the stretch at Santa Anita as he
avenged his lone career loss in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last November.

“At first I thought California Chrome was getting away from me, and I know that
when he switches leads, he has another gear,” Smith said following the season-
opening victory. “It wasn’t good enough today, but not only was it not good
enough but I don’t have words to describe what Shared Belief did.

“I would say this is the best he’s ever run, but I would also say this is the
best he’s ever looked. He’s not very tall, but he’s made really well.”

California Chrome is not expected to run in the Big ‘Cap, instead taking the
long trip to the Persian Gulf for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28.
So some prestige may be removed from this year’s running.

“California Chrome has a big following, deservedly so. He deserved to be Horse
of the Year. If things had gone a little bit different (in the Breeders’ Cup
Classic), I might have got a chance, but you can’t always get things to go
your way,” Hollendorfer said the day after the San Antonio.

But Shared Belief is now the clear favorite among all in the handicap division
of thoroughbreds and a victory in the Big ‘Cap extends his lead for HOY.

“Shared Belief is already a great horse. He’s young and has time to get better
and do more great things,” Smith noted recently.

A healthy Shared Belief is a scary horse for all the trainers, owners and
jockeys who plan to have their mounts compete against the gelding. He has
shown true tactical speed with the ability to set the pace, press the pace,
stalk the pace and even come from off the pace when forced wide around the

Nominations for the Big ‘Cap closed with 26 horses listed as possibly taking
on Shared Belief. It is not expected that any of those thoroughbreds can stay
with the gelding during the running of the Big ‘Cap.