Having passed his first stakes test of 2014 with flying colors, juvenile champion Shared Belief is ready for his next challenge against older horses in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I), trainer Jerry Hollendorfer indicated July 6.
"We certainly want to take a look at a race like that," the Hall of Fame trainer said in reference to the Pacific Classic the morning after Shared Belief rolled to a 4 1/4-length victory in the $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II).
The undefeated gelding won for the first time on a dirt track in the Los Al race and also handled the 1 1/8-mile distance easily, separating himself from challenger Candy Boy in the stretch.
In the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Aug. 24, Shared Belief would be back on a synthetic track, over which he is 4-for-4 in his career. The 1 1/4-mile Polytrack event is likely to draw a number of tough older horses including Game On Dude, the 2013 Pacific Classic winner, and Majestic Harbor, winner of the recent Gold Cup at Santa Anita (gr. I). California Chrome, the dual classic winner this spring, is also a possibility.
"It's a million dollars, so they aren't going to be giving it away," Hollendorfer said of Shared Belief's potential opponents.
The Pacific Classic is also the second leg of a newly created $1 million bonus that goes to the horse that can sweep the Los Alamitos Derby, the Pacific Classic, and the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) back on dirt at Santa Anita Park Nov. 1. The "Bolton Challenge" was created by Los Alamitos Race Course together with the major California-based insurance brokerage firm Bolton & Co.
In opting for the Pacific Classic, Shared Belief would be skipping some major stakes for 3-year-olds on the East Coast this summer.
Shared Belief, who won the Los Alamitos Derby in a time of 1:47.01, came out of the race "very nice," Hollendorfer said. "Everything's perfect."
Hollendorfer said he wasn't too concerned with how the son of Candy Ride would handle the dirt surface at Los Alamitos, but admitted he was "a little anxious."
"You never know what a horse can do until he does it," Hollendorfer said. "I think (jockey) Mike (Smith) said it best, that he knew 100 yards out of the starting gate that he would handle it."
Shared Belief had his 3-year-old campaign slowed by foot problems that kept him out of the Triple Crown series following a juvenile season culminating in a romping victory in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I).
Three-year-olds have won four of the 23 previous renewals of the Pacific Classic, the most recent being Dullahan in 2012. Pedigree-wise, Shared Belief certainly seems to fit the race. His sire won the race in 2003 and he is out of the winning Storm Cat mare Common Hope.
Hollendorfer said Shared Belief would return to training at Golden Gate Fields, where he has been based since early this year.
Bred in Kentucky by Pam and Marty Wygod, Shared Belief has won his five races by a combined margin of nearly 30 lengths while banking $772,200. He is owned by Jim Rome's Jungle Racing, KMN Racing, Hollendorfer, Jason Litt, George Todaro, and Alex Solis II.