Up the Backstretch: Shared Belief stepping up with Pacific Classic

08/21/2014 11:17 AM

08/21/2014 11:23 AM

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Eclipse Award winner Shared Belief will take on the best older horses on the West Coast when the 3-year-old gelding starts Sunday in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

The gelding, undefeated in five career starts with two this year, is the 5-2 morning line favorite versus 10, including defending winner and 3-1 second pick Game On Dude, in the 1 1/4-mile Classic on Del Mar's synthetic main track.

Trained and partly owned by Jerry Hollendorfer, Shared Belief will once again have the services of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith who normally rides Game On Dude for another Hall of Fame member Bob Baffert.

"Extremely difficult decision," Smith noted this week on his decision to ride Shared Belief over Game On Dude. "You know, and Game On Dude, man when he shows up and runs his A plus race, there's not too many in the world period that can outrun him. So he's going to be very, very difficult to beat. You know, this decision just came down to the well, you know, more of anything that Shared Belief is three and has, you know, a few good years left ahead of him, whereas Game On Dude is seven and I'm not too sure how much longer his racing career will be after this year. So that's just kind of the way you've got to look at it. That doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to, we get to stick with him, you know, Shared Belief that long, but we're planning to, so that's just the way we look at it and that's just what really was the deciding decision because they're both extremely talented horses."

Whether Smith has an advantage of having ridden Game On Dude previously, even the veteran jockey knows the defending Classic champ is tough to beat.

"I know if he gets things his own way, like I said, he's extremely difficult to beat," Smith said concerning Game On Dude. "So, I've got to hope for a little help in the race, and if I'm not getting it, well then I might have to be it. You know, we'll just have to wait and see on how the race is developing and how Shared Belief is, running at that time. If he's cruising nice and easy and I feel like I can make an early run at him, well then maybe that's something I might do, you know. It just depends on how things are going. If he's just going really easy and I'm already right there, well then I can certainly wait a little longer. So we'll just have to wait and see. There should be pace. Any time you get this caliber of race there's going to be some pace."

Shared Belief likes the front-end and has won his five races by a total of 29 lengths.

"He was just such a professional," Smith noted about his mount. "Man, he is so straightforward that, you know, there's really not a whole lot to learn about him. It's just, what I did learn about him was I was amazed at how well balanced he was. I mean he's not that big of a horse, but when you're on him and he's running he makes you feel like you're on a giant. I mean he's just so well balanced and really agile."

The 3-year-old gelding, who can give Smith his fourth Pacific Classic victory, did not run in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile nor did he make the Triple Crown races, so Sunday is the biggest race and the largest step up in competition for him.

"He's won all five of his races really well within himself," Smith observed. "You know, he's been drawing away at the end and there's never been a race where he just hung on or something. I mean he always seems to have something left in the tank. He has a lot of stamina just like his father (2003 Classic winner Candy Ride) did."

Shared Belief has the opportunity to catapult himself into Eclipse Award discussions with a Pacific Classic win and make the final months of 2014 truly interesting.

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