Analysis: Use this value horse in loaded Shared Belief Stakes

Analysis: Use this value horse in loaded Shared Belief Stakes
Photo: Benoit Photo

Only four months ago, Medina Spirit was the blog choice in the Kentucky Derby based on his expected speed. At 12-1 odds, he delivered with a win after an exciting four-way battle in the stretch, although the long-term outcome is in flux as the connections continue to fight legal battles.

Click here for Del Mar entries and results.

Even though Medina Spirit resulted in a win for this writer, loyalty is not a good trait when betting horses. In the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar, it makes sense to play against the underlaid Medina Spirit as he likely needs one race to warm up. It also makes sense to question the morning-line second choice Rock Your World on dirt.

Earlier this year, Rock Your World won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in a strong fashion from a visual standpoint by four lengths over Medina Spirit in second. As the only other Grade 1 winner besides Medina Spirit entered, Rock Your World provides the familiarity and class to bettors.

Yet, Rock Your World exits off two poor races in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont.

After the Santa Anita Derby win, Rock Your World gave a subpar performance in the Kentucky Derby and ended up a disappointing 17th at 9-2 odds after a slow break. As written frequently on this blog, the Derby running line is often an outlier.

One month later, though, Rock Your World took a shot at the marathon Belmont Stakes and folded to sixth by 22 lengths after pressing Hot Rod Charlie.

Perhaps that finish is forgivable too, given the fast fractions.

Nevertheless, there is an underlying feeling that Rock Your World wants a return to turf and that his impressive Santa Anita Derby win was a fluke aided by an inside speed bias on the dirt. And his 8-5 morning-line odds in this race are not that higher than Medina Spirit at 7-5.

Why not take a shot against both of them with Team Merchants?

Team Merchants makes his third start off the bench. In his first start back, he did no running after an early stumble in an optional claiming race on turf. Officially, he lost by 60 1/2 lengths. But in his second start back, Teach Merchants made a successful return to dirt and won a local optional claiming race at 6 1/2 furlongs.

The runner-up in the local win, I Got No Munny, won a local optional claiming race on Aug. 7 in his next start. I Got No Munny is also a 4-year-old gelding, as Team Merchants’ local win came in an optional claiming race with older horses. Both Medina Sprit and Rock Your World lack any races against older horses in their records right now.

Another plus for Team Merchants is that he broke his maiden by 3 3/4 lengths over Ten for Ten and Speaker’s Corner last September. Ten for Ten went on to finish second in the Nashua Stakes (G3) and Remsen Stakes (G2) later that year. As for Speaker’s Corner, he broke his maiden at Belmont last October against currently familiar names in Caddo River, Greatest Honour, Miles D and Bourbonic.

Given the horses Team Merchants beat in his Saratoga maiden race, it seems like his ceiling was high at the time. If not for hitting the shelf after Saratoga, he probably was going to be a player in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile or even the Derby trail.

Perhaps Team Merchants’ ceiling remains high. At this point in his comeback, there is no reason to believe he cannot develop into a legitimate graded stakes horse.

Can Team Merchants route? He makes his two-turn and one-mile debut in the Shared Belief, after running only as far as ½ furlongs in his previous four races.

Team Merchants’ sire Nyquist won the 2016 Kentucky Derby, while his dam line traces back to Electric Fable, who gives a possible clue as to whether the bottom half of the pedigree favors routing. Electric Fable is a Quiet American half-sister to Oil Fable, the dam of Cara Rafaela, who produced the recently passed Bernardini. Bernardini is mostly a route sire.

Why not consider Team Merchants’ stablemate The Great One as well? Remember, The Great One broke his maiden by an incredible 14 lengths in January at Santa Anita before disappointing on the Derby trail with a distant fifth by 16 3/4 lengths in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) and seventh by 20 1/2 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Even though he is working well, The Great One lacks a start since the Santa Anita Derby. In most cases, horses need one or two races to get back into the right flow. While The Great One’s future might turn out as bright or brighter than Team Merchants, for now he is only one to watch.

Based on value and potential, Team Merchants is the top selection. If his odds stay at 9-2 or higher, then he is a great candidate for a win and place bet.

2021 Shared Belief Stakes (LS)


Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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