The main track at Del Mar on opening day 2014. Photo by Chris Stone

Favored Shared Belief won Sunday’s 24th annual Grade I $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, Del Mar‘s richest and most prestigious race, by 2 3/4 lengths over Toast of New York, overcoming problems at the start and a stewards’ inquiry to remain undefeated.

Shared Belief started from the far outside post in what was intended to be an 11-horse field and his right hind end bounced off the starting gate, according to jockey Mike Smith.

Shared Belief was in the middle of the pack in the early going of the 1 1/4-mile race on the Polytrack course for 3-year-olds and up, then passed Toast of New York and a faltering Game On Dude.

Shared Belief drew out in the final furlong, winning in two minutes, .28 seconds.

The inquiry sign was posted as Del Mar’s stewards studied an incident involving Shared Belief who bore in while passing Toast of New York in the upper stretch. Following an approximate four-minute video review, they ruled that Shared Belief had sufficient clearance and a disqualification was not warranted.

“I don’t believe I caused any trouble in the stretch,” Smith said. “When I came over, I had room. If I did cause any trouble, it surely wasn’t intentionally.”

Victor Espinoza, who rode Toast of New York, said Shared Belief “did come over on us and I had to take a hold. Maybe it’s different if I don’t.”

Nationally syndicated radio sports talk show host Jim Rome, who leads the partnership who owns Shared Belief, told the NBC Sports Network that the four minutes of the inquiry “felt like four weeks.”

“The two greatest words I heard in my life were ‘No change,”‘ Rome said.

Shared Belief, the 6-5 favorite, paid $4.40, $3.20 and $2.80 for his sixth victory in six career starts and third this year.

“He just ran a terrific race,” Smith said. “He’s a special horse. I heard someone say this might be the coming out of a super star. I think now this horse deserves that accolade. I’ll tell you what — he’s as good a young horse as I’ve sat on in a while.”

Toast of New York, the winner of the UAE Derby, paid $5.20 and $4.60.

Imperative, a 1 1/2 length winner over Game On Dude as a 26-1 shot in the $1.5 million Grade II Charles Town Classic April 19 in Charles Town, West Virginia, paid $8.40 to show, finishing a nose ahead of Game On Dude, a 7-year- old gelding who won last year’s Pacific Classic by a record 8 1/2 lengths.

Shared Belief and Toast of New York, the race’s two 3-year-olds, both carried 118 pounds under weight-for-age conditions. The other horses all carried 124 pounds.

This was the first time in the race’s history that 3-year-olds have finished first and second.

The win was worth $600,000 for Shared Belief, who was guaranteed entry into the nation’s richest race, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, and will have all his entry fees paid for the Nov. 1 race at Santa Anita Park.

Shared Belief won the Eclipse Award as the top 2-year-old male for 2013 when he won all three of his races, but lingering foot issues kept him out of this spring’s Triple Crown races.

Shared Belief began his 2014 campaign by winning a six furlong allowance race at Golden Gate Fields in May and was a 4 1/4-length winner in the Grade II Los Alamitos Derby July 5.

Frac Daddy, a 4-year-old with two victories and a second-place finish in his last five starts, was scratched because of a tendon injury, reducing the field to 10.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.

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