ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Shared Belief won the $300,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds by a neck Friday on opening day of Santa Anita's winter meet.
Ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Shared Belief ran seven furlongs in 1:20.69 and paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10 as the 1-2 favorite for co-owner and sports talk host Jim Rome.
The crowd of 40,810 was the largest on a sun-splashed opening day since 2011, while the on-track wagering total of $3,431,886 was up 11 percent from last year.
With his third Grade 1 victory this year and fourth overall, Shared Belief reinserted himself into Eclipse Award consideration for divisional and Horse of the Year honors. The colt was coming off a fourth-place finish in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 1 on the same track that snapped his seven-race winning streak.
"I truly believe he would be undefeated right now if you take the start of the Breeders' Cup Classic out of it," Smith said, referring to the rough start in that race. "I got beat three lengths and I lost at least seven or eight leaving the gate and on down the track. I certainly would have liked to have seen us undefeated right now and then there wouldn't be a question about Horse of the Year."
Trained and co-owned by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Shared Belief was last year's 2-year-old champion male.
"He broke extremely well today which I was really, really happy with," Smith said. "He didn't go real quick the first quarter-mile, but we really picked it up and from then on, it was a horse race."
Conquest Two Step returned $21.80 and $6.80 at 72-1 odds, while Chitu was another half-length back in third and paid $2.80 to show as the 2-1 second choice.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert saddled three of the nine starters, having two of the previous three Malibu runnings. Besides third-place Chitu, Indianapolis finished fourth, while Midnight Hawk was last. Baffert's other horse, Pimpernel, was scratched.
The victory, worth $180,000, increased Shared Belief's career earnings to $2,032,200, with eight wins in nine starts.
"I've got a nine-year-old (son) who says good times never get old," Rome said. "I've done this long enough to fully appreciate what it means to have a horse who's a Grade one stakes winner and we don't take it for granted."
Hollendorfer won the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes earlier in the day with 12-1 shot Sam's Sister, who beat 3-5 favorite Taris by a half-length in a field of nine 3-year-old fillies.
Ridden by Elvis Trujillo, Sam's Sister ran seven furlongs in 1:22.52 and paid $27, $7.80 and $4.20.
Taris returned $2.60 and $2.20, while Thank You Marylou was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.80 to show.
The victory, worth $180,000, increased Sam's Sister's career earnings to $307,450, with four wins in five starts.
In the $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile, Alert Bay won by a neck for his fourth straight victory.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Alert Bay ran the distance on the turf in 1:35.06 and paid $20.40, $9.20 and $6.80 at 9-1 odds in the field of 10 3-year-olds.
Home Run Kitten returned $5.80 and $4.60, while Awesome Return was another length back in third and paid $8.20 to show.
The victory, worth $120,000, increased Alert Bay's career earnings to $617,207, with seven wins in 12 starts.