Up the Backstretch: Shared Belief makes a statement

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Sometimes the best effort isn’t always
the one that results in the most lopsided finish in thoroughbred horse racing.

Looking past the actual race will many times offer reasons to appreciate how a
horse got to the finish line first, even if said horse only won by a narrow
margin.

On Friday at Santa Anita, Shared Belief came back to the races in his first
start since getting fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic eight weeks earlier.
By now we all know about the running of the 1 1/4-mile Classic at Santa Anita
and how eventual winner Bayern broke to the left at the start and impeded 5-2
favorite Shared Belief momentarily.

“We put all that behind us,” Shared Belief’s trainer and co-owner Jerry
Hollendorfer said Saturday. “There’s nothing we can do about what happened and
so we forget about it and just remember that he’s a good horse and we came
back and won, so I feel like he really justified himself today.”

Shared Belief, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, did come back with a
gut-wrenching performance to win the Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs at
Santa Anita. The 3-year-old gelding stalked the pace and had to swing wide
around the final turn and into the stretch before fighting two other
contenders and registering a neck victory.

“He was sitting in a good spot,” Hollendorfer noted, “and he was in between
horses, but really, I was watching and never had any doubts that he would get
out and come running down the lane.”

It was the kind of effort that showed Shared Belief knows where the wire is
and does what has to be done to win.

“I don’t know if people really understand how difficult it is to go from a
mile and a quarter back to seven-eighths,” Mike Smith said. “It’s really hard
to do. It takes a special kind of horse; he’s that, and maybe more.

“This race proved what a great horse he is, just by doing what he did. To run
route races, then to come back to seven-eighths against top sprinters … To
me, that puts a big feather in his cap and puts him in front for Horse of the
Year. I think this put him ahead of the rest.”

Being recognized as Horse of the Year is the ultimate honor in thoroughbred
racing. For 2014, the three finalists may well end up being a trio of 3-year-
olds, Bayern, California Chrome and Shared Belief.

“I don’t vote on Horse of the Year, but all the other folks can take a look and
see what they think,” Hollendorfer said.

Shared Belief was the 2013 Eclipse Award champion as a 2-year-old and has
raised even more questions about who should be 2014 Horse of the Year and
champion 3-year-old.

“Sometimes people are disappointed because he didn’t win by open lengths and
think, ‘What’s the matter? Maybe he’s not all that (good),'” co-owner Jim
Rome said after the race. “The horse just won a Grade I cutting way back (in
distance) and did it with a lot of grit and a lot of moxie and I could not be
more proud of Shared Belief. I love this horse.”

Next up for Shared Belief is an expected rematch with Bayern and California
Chrome in the $500,000 San Antonio on Feb. 7 at Santa Anita. That will offer
the newly turned 4-year-olds a 1 1/8-mile battle.

“He’ll go back to Golden Gate … to train as usual, but we’ll look at the San
Antonio, for sure. We’ll look at it pretty hard,” Hollendorfer said.

By winning last week’s seven-furlong Malibu, maybe Shared Belief can at least
be voted 2014 champion male sprinter?