If there’s one thing most people in racing can agree on this weekend, it is that Shared Belief looks like the most likely winner of the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap. But despite his dominance over the field, 12 others have lined up against him to try and grab a piece of the purse.
Who are Shared Belief and the contenders lining up against him on Saturday? Let’s take a look.
Possibly best known as the champion 2-year-old male of 2013, Shared Belief has won nine of his 10 starts with his only loss coming in a roughly run Breeders’ Cup Classic. The gelding missed last year’s Triple Crown trail due to hoof issues but returned last July and has been steadily sweeping through the big California graded stakes since then with only a fourth in the aforementioned Classic slowing his roll. Shared Belief comes into the Big ‘Cap off of a win in the San Antonio Stakes where he beat last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness stakes victor California Chrome by a half-length.
Moreno is returning to the races in the Big ‘Cap after suffering an injury in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Grade 1 winner has been working well since January, including two bullet (the fastest work of the day) works at Los Alamitos over six furlongs in preparation for his return. The phrase Dubai World Cup has been paired with Moreno’s name over the last few months so it is possible that we may see Moreno on March 28 half way across the world if he does well here. Moreno is one of those horses that goes to the front and holds on for as long as he can, a strategy that has worked well as he has hit the board in many of the biggest graded stakes races and is the winner of more than $1.8-million.
Hard Aces is an interesting runner in this race. He’s only won one race since January of 2014 but that race was a stakes race six weeks ago at Fair Grounds, and that victory put him in contention for the Mineshaft Handicap. He showed up on the entries for the race and was named the second choice but was scratched a few days before due to a private purchase. Hard Aces is now with trainer John Sadler and racing in the colors of Hronis Racing and will be making his first start for those connections here. Hard Aces is a co-fifth choice on the morning line at 12-1 and will need to really step up his game to even think about besting Shared Belief, especially from post 13. But the private purchase makes him an interesting addition here as the field looks pretty wide open behind Shared Belief, giving him a good shot to hit the board if he backs up his Louisiana Handicap win.
The Santa Anita Handicap is the last of 11 races on Saturday’s card at Santa Anita, going off at 8:00 p.m. ET.