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2015 San Antonio

San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita

California ChromeDubbed the “Rematch”, we have the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes this Saturday, February 7th, featuring California Chrome and Shared Belief. This will definitely be one to watch, folks! Many were upset with this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic where there was much controversy about the winner, Bayern and how he bore in sharply at the gate and impeded Shared Belief’s start. Regardless of how you feel about any of these horses, or how the officials ruled on that one, it was clear that Shared Belief didn’t get the trip we expected or that he deserved. I can’t say that he would have won had he be given a better trip (I mean let’s face it, that’s just horse racing and it happens!), but I do believe he would have done better than his 4th place finish. Even the push from Bayern wasn’t the only trouble Shared Belief had in that race. Here’s the notes from Equibase-

 

“SHARED BELIEF bobbled and forced into MORENO by the winner (BAYERN) at the break, steadied when put close soon after, checked off heels when angling for room near the wire the first time, raced four wide into the clubhouse turn, dropped in a path while in range down the backstretch, gave hard pursuit into the lane, but failed to overcome his early adversity.”

 

Shared BeliefIt was a very rough trip to say the least, but it wasn’t the first time that Shared Belief had had a rough go at it. A month earlier, Shared Belief had won the Awesome Again Stakes by a neck after Sky Kingdom (with Victor Espinoza in the irons) pushed him out four or five wide into the clubhouse turn. Despite the fact that he was forced to travel much further than the rest of the field, Shared Belief pulled off the impressive, narrow win. Much drama ensued after that race when Shared Belief’s jockey, Mike Smith confronted Victor Espinoza. Espinoza stated-

 

“He told me, ‘Keep walking or I’ll cut your head off.’ He disrespected me, which is kind of surprising for a Hall of Fame rider like him.”

 

HoppertunityDrama, drama! So now we head into the San Antonio where Espinoza will be back on California Chrome and Mike Smith will be on Shared Belief. Both of these horses are top-notch, so it will definitely be a great one to watch. Here’s the problem. I like them both! Granted, I was a little late to the Shared Belief party, only following him in about the middle of his big win streak, but I have liked Chrome since he was a two year old. And to top that off, I don’t like to bet the favorites! So is there any potential for an upset in this one? I believe there may be, in Hoppertunity. If we step back to May of last year, I had Hoppertunity as my top choice going into the Derby… well, at least until he scratched. We’ll never know what could have been there, but I really felt that Hoppertunity had a huge shot at winning the Derby. When he came back in October, I was excited. Unfortunately, he ran 2nd in an Optional Claiming race at Santa Anita. I wasn’t happy about the second place finish there, but when he followed that up with a win in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and another win in the Grade 2 San Pasqual, I knew he was getting back to the efforts I expected from him. If there is a value play in this match between Shared Belief and California Chrome, it has to be Hoppertunity. He has shown that he can be versatile in his running style which makes him dangerous here. I would expect him to try and lead all the way in this one, but I really don’t know. Shared Belief may go for the early lead and I do expect California Chrome to keep close tabs on him whatever he does, so if these two tie up early, I look for Hoppertunity to stalk the pace and try to nab it at the end. Good luck everybody!

 

 

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Mike Jr, eldest son of Mike Lane Sr, is co-lead author at HandicapHorseRacing.com and was raised on thoroughbred horse racing and handicapping. Although father and son often butt heads on their selections, they both have much love and admiration for the sport. Mike Jr. brings a new, fresh perspective to horse racing and is often in search of new angles to try.

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