04/16/2015 12:05PM

Shared Belief faces new challenges in Charles Town Classic

Benoit & Associates
Shared Belief will be a short price in the Charles Town Classic, but the track's six-furlong configuration will a new experience for him.

Shared Belief should win the Charles Town Classic on Saturday as a very short-priced favorite.

He’s the best horse; he’s 3 for 3 at the 1 1/8-mile distance; and jockey Mike Smith has been there, done that, having won the Classic with Game On Dude in 2013 and finished second aboard him last year.

Still, several obstacles stand between Shared Belief and victory. He will have to negotiate a six-furlong track while making his first start outside of California. West Virginia is not the easiest place to reach, and the trip involved a cross-country flight from Oakland to Newark, N.J., plus a 250-mile van ride to Charles Town.

And then there are the turns – they are tight, and there are three of them. The Classic begins on the backstretch, goes past the finish line, and then around again. The stretch at Charles Town is just over a furlong in length.

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has a lot of confidence in Shared Belief, a winner of 10 of 11 starts, including five Grade 1’s. He was matter of fact when discussing the Charles Town layout.

“The turns are the same for everyone; we all have to handle them,” he said. “I asked Mike Smith what he thought about the turns, and he didn’t think it would be a problem.”

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Shared Belief has won around tight turns before. When Los Alamitos was converted from a five-furlong oval to a mile to accommodate Thoroughbred racing, the stretch and backstretch were extended, but the turns remained tight. Shared Belief negotiated them fine when handily winning the Los Alamitos Derby.

“He’s just a very consistent horse,” Hollendorfer said. “Anything you ask him to do, he does it willingly, and he does it easily. He is a very athletic horse.”

The timing of the Charles Town Classic fits nicely into Shared Belief’s schedule, giving him plenty of time before his next scheduled start, the Grade 1 Met Mile at Belmont Park on June 6. But the $1.5 million purse of the Classic also was a strong motivating factor.

Under a three-tier participation incentive written into the conditions of the Classic, Shared Belief will earn a $100,000 bonus for having won the Pacific Classic last summer. If all nine entrants start, the winner will earn a first-place check of $783,000.

Saturday’s card at Charles Town has a first post of 12:45 p.m. Eastern. The Classic is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. and will complete a $100,000-guaranteed pick four that will start on race 9. The Charles Town card will be streamed live on DRF.com.

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Key contenders

Shared Belief (Last 3 Beyers: 111-107-99)

◗ Alex Solis II put together the partnership that purchased Shared Belief after his winning career debut at Golden Gate Fields in October 2013. He described what makes Shared Belief so special this way: “The thing is, his cruising speed is so fast, and then he can pick it up and finish faster. On top of that, he is so tactical. Nothing fazes him.”

Moreno (Last 3 Beyers: 93-105-58)

◗ Trainer Eric Guillot said Moreno has a habit of waiting on horses, and he has made it clear that he wants jockey Cornelio Velasquez to put Moreno on the lead and let him roll.

◗ Moreno led throughout in his two biggest wins, last summer’s Grade 1 Whitney and the Grade 2 Dwyer.

◗ As a Grade 1 winner, Moreno will earn a $50,000 participation bonus.

General a Rod (Last 3 Beyers: 104-84-94)

◗ He broke a six-race losing streak dating to January 2014 in his debut for trainer Todd Pletcher, winning the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by more than six lengths. He has since worked four times at Palm Beach Downs.

Street Babe (Last 3 Beyers: 95-85-87)

◗ He is the most lightly raced horse in the field, having made only three starts for trainer Michael Dilger. A 4-year-old gelding by Street Sense, he won the Grade 3 Mineshaft at Fair Grounds in his last start Feb. 21.

Vyjack (Last 3 Beyers: 92-102-93)

◗ A two-time Grade 2 winner trained by Rudy Rodriguez, he tired to finish fifth in the Stymie at Aqueduct last time out following a three-month layoff. He should be tighter for this.

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Imperative (Last 3 Beyers: 92-91-97)

◗ He won the Charles Town Classic at 26-1 last year but is winless in eight starts since.

Page McKenney (Last 3 Beyers: 96-96-95)

◗ A $16,000 claim by Mary Eppler in July 2013, he has finished worse than second only once in his last 13 starts. He enters off two stakes wins at Laurel Park.

The field is completed by the longshots Looking Cool and Warrioroftheroses.