Well beaten in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) last out, Next Shares loomed large on the class drop in Saturday’s $201,404 San Gabriel (G2), but the 8-5 favorite cut it awfully close. The Richard Baltas trainee forced his nose in front of Cleopatra’s Strike on the line, with Liam the Charmer another neck away in third, in a climactic finish at Santa Anita.
But Next Shares accomplished his task. By proving himself effective at 1 1/8 miles, he has given his connections confidence to try him in the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) over 1 3/16 miles at Gulfstream Park January 26.
“It’s all about the Pegasus Turf Cup Invitational right now,” co-owner Michael Iavarone said.
Under jockey Geovanni Franco, who picked up the mount after an ill Joel Rosario took off his Saturday rides, Next Shares settled near the back of the pack. Up front, 62-1 longshot Arms Runner carved out steady splits of :24.09, :48.36, and 1:12.46 on the firm turf. Cleopatra’s Strike, making his stakes debut for new trainer Phil D’Amato, was well placed in an attending second, while Liam the Charmer stalked within striking range.
When Arms Runner packed it in, Cleopatra’s Strike was on the premises to take command. The former Woodbine denizen nearly capitalized on his tactical coup. Sticking to his guns down the stretch, Cleopatra’s Strike threatened to pull a mild 6-1 upset.
But Next Shares swung into action in the nick of time, rallied past the one-paced Liam the Charmer, and joined Cleopatra’s Strike as both reached for the wire. The camera revealed that Next Shares got there first by a whisker in a final time of 1:48.61 for 1 1/8 miles.
Liam the Charmer, whose signature win came in the 1 1/4-mile John Henry Turf Championship (G2) prior to being outclassed in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), was relentlessly game at the shorter trip. He kept churning to claw back the yards and get close late between the top two.
Chicago Style, winner of the 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), found this a tad too sharp but closed to grab fourth. Platinum Warrior, Flamboyant, Arms Runner, Oscar Dominguez, and Big Bend rounded out the order of finish.
Owned by the partnership of Michael Iavarone, Jules Iavarone, Jerry McClanahan, Christopher T. Dunn, William Marasa, Ritchie Robershaw, and Mark Taylor, Next Shares advanced his scorecard to 22-6-4-2, $1,187,697. The Archarcharch gelding had amassed placings in last year’s Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), Shoemaker Mile (G1), Thunder Road (G3) and Joe Hernandez before breaking through in the Old Friends S. at Kentucky Downs. Then he reached a new career high to surprise Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at 23-1, but regressed to 13th in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. As a juvenile, he also posted a runner-up effort in the 2015 With Anticipation (G2) for original trainer William Cowans.
First sold for $87,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, Next Shares joined his current connections after bringing $190,000 at Keeneland November in 2017. He was bred by Buck Pond Farm in Kentucky and produced by the multiple stakes-placed Two Dot Slew, who is also responsible for multiple stakes scorer and Grade 3-placed Angelica Zapata. The Evansville Slew mare descends from Danish legend Rossard, dam of California supersire Unusual Heat.
Quotes from Santa Anita
Co-owner Michael Iavarone on Next Shares: “Yeah, he’s going to the Pegasus. It’s all about the Pegasus Turf Cup Invitational right now. It’s what we wanted and what we were hoping for. We tried to stretch him out with that in mind and it worked out amazingly well. I told Geovanni to make sure to save a little for the Pegasus.
“When I first saw the race I thought we won. Then, when I watched the replay seven times I thought we got beat. Either way I thought we ran well enough to show we could get the distance so I was happy with it either way but that nose was huge.”
Next Shares’ trainer Richard Baltas: “This is a very, very, very good horse. I said earlier that he likes a little more cut in the ground, but he obviously handled this well. Geo rode a great race…He was a little far back, but this guy doesn’t panic.”
Winning rider Geovanni Franco on the pick-up mount: “My horse was so good today. He broke out of there and we kind of got left a little bit but Richard told me not to hurry, so I didn’t. He told me that if we had to go wide to go ahead and go wide, because it wouldn’t matter. He said the horse will run. Down the lane the other horses were very game but I think Next Shares heard everyone screaming and pulling for him and he got it done.
“I thought I won it because I thought my horse had his nose down at the wire, but I knew it was close. This is the biggest pick-up mount I’ve ever had, for sure.”
Trainer Phil D’Amato on new recruit Cleopatra’s Strike: “I’ve had two of these (photo finishes) in the last week. We know he fits with Grade 1 horses…We’ve got a lot to work with here.”