Updated on 09/30/2014 9:33AM

Shared Belief by a neck in Awesome Again

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief won his seventh straight start Saturday in the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The suburb where Santa Anita is located is a tony, genteel town, not known for crime. But there was an attempted mugging on Saturday. The intended victim, though, was able to fend off his attackers.

Shared Belief ($2.40) had to overcome the apparent tag-team tactics of a pair of Bob Baffert-trained runners in the Grade 1, $300,500 Awesome Again Stakes. He was carried wide on both turns of the 1 1/8-mile race by Baffert’s rank longshot, Sky Kingdom, but still rallied bravely through the lane to catch Baffert’s other and better horse, Fed Biz, to prevail to remain unbeaten after seven starts.

 Shared Belief, fourth entering the lane, got up to beat Fed Biz by a neck, with Footbridge another 2 1/4 lengths back in third. Majestic Harbor was fourth and was followed, in order, by Imperative, Mystery Train, and then Sky Kingdom, who finished more than 22 lengths behind Shared Belief.

 Bird E House was scratched earlier in the day, leaving a field of seven.

 The distance of the race officially was 1 1/8 miles, which Shared Belief completed in 1:48.58 on the fast main track. But he ran much, much farther than that with the ground loss after being carried out by Sky Kingdom, who was ridden by Victor Ezpinoza.

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 Espinoza is the regular rider for California Chrome, Shared Belief’s main rival for the title as champion 3-year-old male, if not Horse of the Year.

 The victory gives Shared Belief a fees-paid berth to the Breeders' cup Classic through the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In programand secured his role  as favorite for the 1 1/4-mile race here on Nov. 1, but the tactics of this race likely will reverberate for a while.

.Mike Smith, who rode Shared Belief, is normally a placid individual, but he could barely contain his contempt after the race.

 “They tried to beat him, and they still didn’t get it done,” Smith said. “I didn’t want that hard a race for him. He’s so talented. Things like that can make a good horse even better.

 “I believe if you want to press the pace or take me out a little bit, okay. But doing it at all costs just to get me beat isn’t the way it should be done. It was to the extreme. I thought it was ridiculous. You just don’t do that.”

 Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains and is a co-owner of Shared Belief, said, “We’re all big boys out here” when asked his reaction to the tactics employed by Sky Kingdom and Espinoza.

 “It will help prepare him for the Breeders’ Cup,” Hollendorfer said. “That race will be tougher, so we’ll need to be tougher, too.”

 Fed Biz, starting from the inside, went for the lead, with Sky Kingdom alongside him, and Shared Belief three lanes wide heading into the first turn. Fed Biz hugged the rail, but Sky Kingdom kept drifting wider and wider, eventually carrying Shared Belief to the middle of the track by the time the runners turned into the backstretch.

 As the field neared the far turn, Sky Kingdom again drifted wide, causing Shared Belief to end up at least five lanes wide. Smith finally cleared Sky Kingdom, ducked in to briefly save ground three lanes wide, and then came out anew to go after Fed Biz.

 Smith in the prior race had taken a tumble when Moulin de Mougin fell entering the stretch of the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive.

 “I’m glad I wasn’t seriously injured and was able to ride,” he said.

 This was the first start for Shared Belief at Santa Anita, where he injured a foot while training earlier this year, necessitating a lengthy layoff that caused him to miss the Triple Crown. Hollendorfer said that early on in the race, he was concerned Shared Belief was not getting a hold of the surface.

Despite all that was stacked against him, Shared Belief, 3, ran his record to a perfect 7 for 7. He earned a first prize of $180,000 to bring his career total to more than $1.55 million. The majority owner of Shared Belief is sportscaster Jim Rome.

 This was the second straight Grade 1 win for Shared Belief, both against older horses. He captured the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in his prior start. Because of his stellar record, he was the heavy favorite in the Awesome Again, and had several hundred thousand dollars bet to show on him.

 Shared Belief has four wins this year to go along with the three he earned last year, when he captured the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. If he can add the BC Classic on Nov. 1, he likely will earn two more year-end championships, Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.

 But first he has to give the police a report.