04/15/2015 3:21PM

Hovdey: Shared Belief will be tough at every turn

Benoit & Associates
Mike Smith will guide Shared Belief around the three turns of the 1 1/8-mile Charles Town Classic.

Just when Shared Belief had gotten used to the culture shock of regular travel from his home in sophisticated San Francisco to the garish candyland of fantastic L.A., now he finds himself waking up in a stall on the backstretch of the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, getting ready for Saturday’s Charles Town Classic. In West Virginia, no less.

As a first interstate road trip for America’s best racehorse, Shared Belief’s people picked a doozy. The party line would have us believe that a race coming six weeks after his consummate victory in the Santa Anita Handicap and seven weeks before his date in the Metropolitan Handicap provides perfect timing for a horse ready to run, and they have a point. The fact that Shared Belief stands to earn at least $750,000 is, I guess, merely a pleasant by-product.

With such an adventure comes a collection of variables, although when aligned against Shared Belief’s multidimensional, 10-for-11 record, none of them seems particularly daunting. He will be traveling by plane for the first time since he was a young horse heading west from his Kentucky birthplace. He will be asked to handle his first deepish, Eastern racing surface. He also will be required to spend most of the 1 1/8-mile race turning left.

The Charles Town Classic is the only Grade 2 event presented over what racetrack slang refers to as a “bullring.” The circumference of the Charles Town course is six furlongs, which means a nine-furlong race like the Classic must start on the backstretch with a short run to the first of three turns.

American racing already has an international reputation as being overly influenced by counterclockwise turns, but bullring competition takes that trend a step further. Shared Belief has competed in two-turn races at Del Mar, Los Alamitos, and Santa Anita – each a mile in circumference – and at Hollywood Park, which was 1 1/8 miles.

:: CHARLES TOWN CLASSIC: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s card live

Mike Smith, who has ridden Shared Belief in seven of his races, rode Game On Dude to finish second to Duke of Mischief in the 2011 Charles Town Classic and second to Imperative there in 2014. In between, Smith and Game On Dude teamed to win the race in 2013.

“It seemed like those horses ran the race of their life to beat Game On Dude back there,” Smith said. “Then the time he won it, he didn’t really handle the track all that well. He was such a warrior though. He didn’t run to his best, but he did whatever it took to win.”

Don’t get Smith started on how much he likes Shared Belief. Their only loss together came in the rough-and-tumble Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November.

“Nothing seems to faze him,” Smith said. “Even that day, any other horse would have folded, but he kept on running. For his size, the things he does seem just wild to me.”

Smith sees no problem for Shared Belief in the turns at Charles Town, nor with the short, 660-foot stretch run.

“He’s not a big, leggy horse, so that might even be an advantage,” Smith said. “He always takes a little breather at some point and then kicks home hard. Breaking so close going into that first turn can be a little tricky, but the short stretch won’t matter because he’s so explosive. People don’t realize how quick he really is. All you have to do is ask him.”

The idea that some horses run faster on the turns than others is a fact of racing life to which Smith can attest.

“A horse I rode called Lure was like that,” Smith said. “He’d hit that turn and almost lean on the rail, accelerating like crazy and putting distance between him and the others. Then he’d swap back to his right and give you another gear.

“Another horse who ran around the turns really well you wouldn’t think of because she was so big,” Smith added. “That was Zenyatta. I’d be 10 lengths back going into that far turn, but I had to be careful. In a matter of a few jumps, I’d be all over the top of horses in front of me.

“Some horses just have great balance with either leg, they’re so athletic,” Smith said. “But then some are just better on one side or the other, just like people can be. Shared will do whatever I ask. I remember in the Malibu at seven furlongs, the middle part of the race on the turn was run really fast. I had to ride him around the turn just to keep up because they were all going fast, and it was fair to wonder if he would have the same kick at the finish. Boy, did he ever.”

Shared Belief might not need to run as well as he did in the Santa Anita Handicap to win, but he will need to at least show a little respect to the front-running Moreno, who finished a distant second at Santa Anita. Beyond that, Smith predicts his horse will deliver a crowd-pleasing show.

“I think everybody’s happy to see horses like Game On Dude and Shared Belief come in for a race like that,” Smith said. “I remember when I was young and the big-name jocks would come in to ride for the big money. You tried hard to beat them, but win or lose, it was fun to watch.”

Cris McHenka More than 1 year ago
Moreno is a very good horse, so is Vijack, and General A Rod. The other horses are there for the minor checks and nothing is for sure in horse racing. This is Shared Belief's first race outside CA.
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
No one mentions the potential dual between Moreno & Warrioroftheroses. Roses will fold, but will he take the wind out of Moreno's sails?
Diane Hain More than 1 year ago
I expect the two of them to put up a blazing fast half mile, Warrrioroftheroses to fold by 6f if not sooner (and finish dead last), and Moreno to be done after a mile.
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
5 hr drive...man would love to see this horse, honey didn't you want to visit your daughter in DC ? Awesome their giving fans a chance to see this horse outside of Cal.
Joey W More than 1 year ago
I am not going to sit here and say Shared Belief is going to lose. But I do think he is a play against in this situation. First time shipping, bullring and this field really isn't all that bad. I will not wager a whole lot on this race, but if my opinion is right it should pay well. Will be playing some sort of exotics using General A Rod, Moreno, Street Babe and Vyjack. So if your betting on Shared Belief good luck and I will be donating to you. But He is definitely not worth betting as he will get seriously over bet.
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
Hope you scored. Good call.
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
For those who belittle and sneer at big-purse races at "bullring" tracks like Charles Town, I think Mike Smith, in the last paragraph, nicely summed up why these races are attractive, exciting, and vital to the continued presence of horse racing in small markets across the country. I, for one, do not want to think about a day where there are only 2 or 3 circuits and the rest of us will have to settle for simulcasting and/or cable tv.
papajoe el papi More than 1 year ago
why don't they just give ShareTheBelief the money is not worth even betting these races of more than a million & only 5 or 6 horses is absurd I mean you have to be an idiot to bet on race like that one & others like it they only have couple of horses now the 3 years olds who have they beaten field of 5 to 7 maybe 8 max but they have not beaten anybody if you come to think about it I will bet that some other horse will beat these favorites for the KD I mean really who do we have look at the times folks.
DCDunn More than 1 year ago
In six runnings of this race the favorite has won once. Game on Dude was a lock last year and got caught. So, historically its a decent betting race. There are 9 other runners, only two of which I believe have run at CT previously, including the second favorite. This kind of track forces different tactics than your standard mile oval, which is why I always like this race. Some horses love it, some can handle it, others never get their feet under them. You never know.
nancyb More than 1 year ago
You could use the money you save to buy some punctuation.
DrSmoke120 More than 1 year ago
He would but tommy took all the !!!!!!!!!!!
Diane Hain More than 1 year ago
Here's an idea: how about watching and enjoying the race just to witness a great horse run a great race? Why do you have to bet it to watch and enjoy it? There are lots of other races to bet. I know I will be betting elsewhere and just enjoying this one because I'm finally going to see Shared Belief!!! I'm staking out my place by the paddock a good 2 races before.
tommy More than 1 year ago
General A rod has peaked!!!! He is ready to challenge shared belief!!! I'm not sure if he is the horse I would pick to beat him but he has every right to win!!!!! My trifecta bet : 1st : shared belief, General A Rod 2nd : shared belief , General A Rod 3rd: ALL $2 daily double Shared belief, General A Rod / All $20 place general A Rod $5 win general A Rod $5 exacta box General A Rod, shared belief
Vincent Spathanas More than 1 year ago
General A Rod, second race now in the hands of Todd Pletcher will only improve... he looked very good winning in Tampa... dangerous at a decent price.
DrSmoke120 More than 1 year ago
Thank you tommy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will run to the windows and bet all i can, I know I can't lose!!!!!!
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Run Forrest! Haha
Keith Valentine More than 1 year ago
You might even break even!
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
oopsie, kerflush.
Kimberly Jennings More than 1 year ago
Sorry, meant to say 2011 edition of the CT Classic.
Kimberly Jennings More than 1 year ago
Actually, I think if you check, David Flores rode Game on Duke to a second place finish behind Duke of Mischief in the 2012 edition of the CT Classic.
Frank More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to seeing this champion/special horse show his stuff. Not a betting race - its a racing fans race.
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
You've got that right!