12/22/2014 2:59PM

Shared Belief starts season in Malibu

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief starts his season going seven furlongs in the Malibu on Friday, and is targeting the San Antonio after that.

ARCADIA, Calif. – What better way to celebrate the day after Christmas than by opening a gift that keeps on giving?

Santa Anita begins its marathon meet Friday, with top-class gelding Shared Belief the star of the day and favorite for the Grade 1, seven-furlong Malibu Stakes. Bettors will expect Shared Belief to win the Malibu.

“We’ll try to get started on another streak,” trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer said.

Shared Belief suffered his first loss after seven wins to start his career Nov. 1 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a tough-trip fourth which Hollendorfer and jockey Mike Smith are glad to put behind them.

Shared Belief worked a half-mile Monday at Golden Gate Fields, and was scheduled to ship Tuesday to Santa Anita. It’s a trip he is expected to make often.

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Shared Belief is stabled at Golden Gate and trains on the synthetic surface there, but his winter starts will be at Santa Anita. Early objectives include the Malibu and $500,000 San Antonio on Feb. 7, a race that also may attract Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.

Bayern and California Chrome are expected to use the San Antonio as a prep race for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28. Meanwhile, Hollendorfer is likely to stay home with Shared Belief.

“I know it’s a big purse and everything, but we like to enjoy the horse here,” he said. “I really don’t think there’s much interest in racing there on our part.”

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers on Friday

That makes Shared Belief the early favorite for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7. But first things first. In the Malibu, Shared Belief will shorten to a sprint against nine rivals that includes four trained by Bob Baffert – Midnight Hawk, Chitu, Indianapolis, and Pimpernel. Hollendorfer also entered 2013 Del Mar Futurity winner Tamarando.

Shared Belief is a three-time Grade 1 winner, including two Grade 1’s against older horses. He is the class of the Malibu field, and a speed-figure standout.

The seven-furlong Malibu will be the first time he has sprinted since May. No problem, says Hollendorfer.

“The really good ones can run short and long,” Hollendorfer said. “He’s a good horse, and knowing that he’s really fit, I didn’t have to be real hard on him.”

Smith rides Shared Belief, who starts from post 8 in the 10-horse field that includes Conquest Two Step, Rprettyboyfloyd, Diamond Bachelor, and Frensham

KEY CONTENDERS

Shared Belief (Last 3 Beyers: 107-101-115)

◗ Shared Belief has won at 1 1/4 miles, but he also can sprint. The cutback in distance is not an issue, Hollendorfer said. “This fits in time-wise, cutting back to seven furlongs,” he said.

“He sprinted really well [early in his career], so I think he can do the seven furlongs very well.”

◗ Hollendorfer, co-owner of Shared Belief along with sports broadcaster Jim Rome and partners, said Shared Belief will go a distance next out. That will likely be in the San Antonio.

◗ Santa Anita linemaker Jon White opened Shared Belief as the 4-5 favorite on the preliminary morning line.

Midnight Hawk (Last 3 Beyers: 82-69-102)

◗ A top 3-year-old early this year, Midnight Hawk has alibis for two losses on the comeback trail. He broke last, rushed, and cracked as the favorite Oct. 31. Second start back, he was not away well, rushed, and cracked again.

◗ A return to dirt, with blinkers off, makes Midnight Hawk a potential upset candidate.

◗ Baffert has turned up the heat in the morning. “I’ve been really bearing down on him, really bearing down,” Baffert said. Midnight Hawk put in bullet works on Dec. 10 and 15, followed by a half-mile blowout Sunday in 47.

◗ He will fire, and should be among the early leaders even with blinkers off.

◗ Midnight Hawk won a Grade 3 in January and placed in four graded stakes afterward before taking summer off. His early-season speed figures suggest he is one of the main threats to Shared Belief.

◗ Victor Espinoza takes over for Smith.

Chitu (Last 3 Beyers: 98-85-103)

◗ Never a flashy work horse, Chitu nonetheless has won 4 of 6 starts and earned $561,000. He wired the field Oct. 31 in the $100,000 Damascus and since then his works have been the same as always.

“You have to force it out of him in the morning,” Baffert said. “But he shows up [in the afternoon].”

◗ Joel Rosario will ride Chitu, expected to be among the pacesetters.

Tamarando (Last 3 Beyers: 79-86-81)

◗ In late 2013, Tamarando was among the top 2-year-olds in California.

◗ Third start back from a layoff, he shortens to the distance of his biggest win and is reunited with Julien Leparoux, who rode the horse to victory in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in 2013.