Navigating Natural Disasters with Horses

Careful preparation and rapid response are crucial for minimizing injury and loss during disasters such as wildfires

No one wants to envision what might happen to their horses if suddenly faced with a flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, earthquake, or other disaster, but in certain parts of the country these devastating events can be a part of life, and horse owners must be ready for them. Of course, location makes a difference in what to prepare for: Horse owners in the Rocky Mountains don’t need to worry about hurricanes or tornadoes, for instance, but they might be threatened by raging wildfires.

Regardless of where you and your horse live, you need to establish and record a plan for these types of situations. “There may not be much time to figure things out during an emergency, so you need an exit strategy—how to get out, safely, with your animals and secure your place before you leave,” says Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, professor and associate dean for clinical and outreach programs at The Ohio State University’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

Moore helped coordinate Gulf Coast hurricane relief for horses and owners in 2005 and 2006, seeing the gamut of what can happen to horse owners—prepared and not. He suggests at the very least having first-aid supplies on hand and easy-to-access contact information for veterinarians and people who could help transport your horses in the event of an evacuation—especially if you don’t have a trailer or if you have more horses than you can haul with your rig. He and other veterinarians experienced with disaster response offer ways to be ready if disaster hits.

Watch Closely and Don’t Wait

If you live in a natural disaster-prone area, pay attention to weather forecasts and situation reports. While tornadoes can pop up rapidly, hurricanes, floods, or wildfires usually come with some notice. If there’s an out-of-control fire in your area, however, and the forecast is for high winds, act quickly; a fire can travel dozens of miles in a few minutes.

“Don’t wait until the last minute, thinking the fire won’t get to your place, or that a hurricane will miss you or be less powerful than predicted,” says Moore. “With Hurricane Katrina, people had plenty of time to get out, but ignored the warnings until it was too late. Part of the issue was unpredictable things that happened, like the levees breaking, causing flooding.”

Dennis French, DVM, professor at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, was also involved in recovering horses impacted by Katrina. He says it’s important to have trailers functional, serviced, and ready to go at a moment’s notice–whether to relocate your own horses or to rescue others. You can’t just grab an old trailer that’s been sitting unused and expect it to be functional.

Also be able to leave your farm quickly: this means having horses trained to load. If you don’t own a trailer, borrow one so you can teach your horse(s) to load. Like a fire drill for school children, horses need to know what to expect so you won’t waste time trying to load a reluctant horse.

John Madigan, DVM, MS, a professor in the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), School of Veterinary Medicine, says if there’s a flood, fire, or hurricane warning, evacuating early is crucial, even if you aren’t immediately sure where you will go. If you are in an at-risk area, load up the horses and leave the farm, then use communication resources such as radio, texting, or social networking to find out where you can go with your animals.

“Some people try to get all the information about where they could go, but the first thing to do is get out of harm’s way,” he says.

Evacuating with Horses

If immediate evacuation is necessary and you only have a few hours to get out, would you be able to exit efficiently? Rebecca McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University, notes the importance of fuel reserves, being able ot hitch the trailer, and having horses that load well.

Have plenty of halters and lead ropes on hand; store buckets and a hose where they’re handy for packing; make sure all horses have up-to-date health papers; and know where these and other equipment and information you might need are located at a moment’s notice. Always have at least a half tank of gas in your truck. If you head out with horses, pack the hay and equipment and anything you and your horses need to subsist if you land at a facility without these basics available. If you go to an empty fairgrounds, for instance, and there are no hoses or buckets, you’ll need these items to water your horse.

Also know ahead of time where you’re heading. For example, if you live in a region likely to flood, be aware of facilities on high ground. Knowing about these and other horse-friendly places (e.g., fairgrounds, racetracks) in case of emergency evacuation is important.

McConnico says it’s crucial to keep vaccinations up-to-date and Coggins documentation current. “Maybe you are a month overdue with this, and then suddenly have to evacuate your horses and take them to a place that won’t let them onto the property unless you can show they’ve been vaccinated or have a current negative Coggins test,” she says.

Another reason to keep up with vaccinations is that your horses could be exposed to other animals in this scenario. There’s also risk for injury if your horse has to fend for himself, so tetanus vaccines should be ¬current.

All told, every plan will be different, depending on your location and situation. “There could be two adjacent farms with very different situations,” says Moore. “One has a trailer and one doesn’t. One has a dozen horses, the other has one. Evacuation plans must be customized.”

If You Have to Leave Your Horses

If you need to evacuate and have to leave your horses behind, make sure they’ll have water for several days. “Feed is not as important as water,” says Moore. “It helps if they have access to hay or pasture versus locked in a stall, but drinking is the most important.”

French says that even five to 10 gallons of water will help a horse survive longer than if he had none. People also wonder whether it’s better to leave horses indoors or turn them out. “One thing we learned, dealing with hurricanes in Louisiana, regarding whether to leave horses indoors or turn them out in the face of a storm, is that turning them out is probably better. There’s always risk that a tree might fall on them, but they wouldn’t be trapped in the barn. This also applies in a flood,” he says.

Horses also can find high ground if they are not confined. If a wildfire sweeps through your farm, for instance, they might be safer in an open pasture than trapped in a barn or paddock. In most situations (but not all—if you’re horses are located near a major highway, for instance, where their chances of being struck by a vehicle are higher than being injured in the impending disaster), horses are better off outdoors. Some owners might be reluctant to turn them loose, but it could save the animals’ lives.

Horse Identification

If you have to leave your animals behind, it’s helpful if they have permanent identification such as a tattoo, registered microchip, brand, or an iris scan on file. “If they don’t, many people use spray paint or livestock markers (such as the “Paintstiks” used to identify animals at an auction) to put temporary ID information on the animals before turning them loose,” says French. Other methods of i¬dentification and providing contact information include a band/tag around the horse’s pastern; a phone number body-clipped into the horse’s hair coat; a luggage tag braided into the mane; or a halter with a tag (although the latter two might end up caught on something and/or pulled off).

“It’s great to put a phone number on the horse’s side, but use the number of a friend or relative outside your area,” says French. “When we were working with rescued horses from Katrina, we couldn’t reach owners with home phone or cell phone because there was no phone service (as is the case in many large-scale disasters). Use the number of someone who can be reached,” says French.

He explains that after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some people stole loose or unattended horses. “A disaster brings out the best in people and the worst in people. There are some who take advantage of the situation,” says French. But if your horse has identification there’s less risk of falling through the cracks. “If someone comes to claim a horse, we want to make sure they have proof of ownership.”

Madigan says it helps to have a photo of the animal, in case you have to drop him off at an evacuation facility or other location and then prove he’s your horse when you return. If there are 2,000 horses at a fairground, for example, it’s good to have a photograph of you with your own horse, even if it’s a digital image.

Resources and Communication

Madigan says it’s important to find reliable information resources in the event of a disaster. There might be a horse evacuation group or community organization that has a Facebook page detailing what facilities and roads are open. Communication via other social networks (i.e., Twitter) can be useful as well. If mobile phone services are down, you might still have texting capabilities, so it helps to have a texting-capable phone and be able to charge it when the battery goes flat.

“In Hurricane Katrina we didn’t have any way to communicate,” says McConnico. “Texting worked a little in our situation, but you can’t always count on it. If the electricity is out and you don’t have a battery, then what do you do? You might use OnStar satellite communication to collect information needed and to get word out that there’s a horse or 50 horses that need assistance, or that there’s someone available who could provide assistance.”

McConnico also suggests identifying your resources for the particular situations that might affect you. “A lot of information will come from communicating with people in your area to find out what your resources are as a family, as a barn, or local group,” she explains. For instance, residents of Southern California and other arid regions usually have a wildfire plan because they’ve been through it before.

“We encourage people to have a partner to work with in case of disaster,” McConnico adds. “A stable owner should have a partner barn; a veterinary practice should have a partner practice in the same town and another one in a different region–in case of a widespread disaster. We try to keep the organized resources within one state, if possible, so we don’t have to worry about interstate agreements or memorandums of understanding, or horse travel between states.”

Organizations such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and universities such as UC Davis offer publications designed to educate horse owners about disaster preparedness. These and other organizations also offer materials for training first responders in emergency and disaster situations, so they are better prepared for horse and other livestock evacuations, emergency animal sheltering, loose livestock management, etc.

Madigan helped write the AAEP’s emergency guidelines and says, “With a little planning and preparation, many things go more smoothly.”

Take-Home Message: Plan for Preparedness

Coordinating area disaster response plans can and should involve the entire equine community. “If you want your town or equine group to prepare for emergencies, plan some meetings with a potluck get-together,” says McConnico. “Get kids and parents involved, utilizing leaders and experts who have been through disaster situations. Put a plan together, building on what you have in place already. Find out who your leaders are and the people you could count on. Make a list of people who have horse trailers. Work what you have and keep improving readiness.”

Some people with experience helping in disaster situations travel around the country on speaking tours, working with groups to help them prepare for emergencies. Someone in your town or region might be interested doing this—you just need to find them.

Also find out where the closest large animal technical rescue group is located. Even in an isolated incident—like a horse falling into a swimming pool or through ice on a pond, or becoming trapped in a trailer—you might need emergency help.

Regardless of where you and your horses call home, be prepared for emergencies well ahead of time and have a plan for when disaster strikes.

About the Author

Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

Golden Gate Daily Results and Activity


Thursday, March 5
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $8,000 $10,500 Summary Chart
Race 2 Maiden Claiming – $25,000 $14,000 Summary Chart
Race 3 Claiming – $16,000 $17,000 Summary Chart
Race 4 Maiden Special Weight $26,000 Summary Chart
Race 5 Claiming – $3,200 $7,000 Summary Chart
Race 6 Claiming – $4,000 $8,400 Summary Chart
Race 7 Maiden Claiming – $8,000 $8,000 Summary Chart

Early Entries

Saturday, March 7 Overnight  
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $6,250 $11,000
Race 2 Claiming – $3,200 $7,000
Race 3 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $27,000
Race 4 Claiming – $12,500 $12,000
Race 5 Starter Allowance – $8,000 $13,000
Race 6 Claiming – $12,500 $10,000
Race 7 Claiming – $40,000 $25,000
Race 8 Allowance $27,000
Race 9 Maiden Special Weight $26,000
Sunday, March 8 Overnight  
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $10,000 $13,000
Race 2 Claiming – $20,000 $18,000
Race 3 Maiden Special Weight $26,000
Race 4 Claiming – $8,000 $12,000
Race 5 Starter Allowance – $40,000 $17,000
Race 6 Starter Allowance – $40,000 $17,000
Race 7 Claiming – $12,500 $10,000
Race 8 Allowance $27,000
Race 9 Maiden Claiming – $25,000 $14,000

Final Entries

Friday, March 6    
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Starter Allowance – $8,000 $13,000
Race 2 Claiming – $5,000 $9,500
Race 3 Claiming – $8,000 $12,000
Race 4 Claiming – $3,200 $7,000
Race 5 Claiming – $12,500 $10,000
Race 6 Claiming – $4,000 $9,000
Race 7 Allowance $27,000

Santa Anita Daily Results and Activity


Thursday, March 5
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $40,000 $27,000 Summary Chart
Race 2 Claiming – $25,000 $25,000 Summary Chart
Race 3 Maiden Special Weight $56,000 Summary Chart
Race 4 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $19,000 Summary Chart
Race 5 Maiden Special Weight $56,000 Summary Chart
Race 6 Allowance Optional Claiming – $50,000 $58,000 Summary Chart
Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming – $62,500 $60,000 Summary Chart
Race 8 Claiming – $25,000 $32,000 Summary Chart

Early Entries

Saturday, March 7 Overnight  
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $16,000 $20,000
Race 2 Maiden Claiming – $50,000 $31,000
Race 3 Maiden Special Weight $56,000
Race 4 Maiden Special Weight $56,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $58,000
Race 6 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $58,000
Race 7 San Felipe S. $400,000
Race 8 China Doll S. $75,000
Race 9 San Carlos S. $250,000
Race 10 Frank E. Kilroe Mile S. $400,000
Race 11 Santa Anita H. $1,000,000
Sunday, March 8 Overnight  
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Claiming – $10,000 $19,000
Race 2 Maiden Special Weight $56,000
Race 3 Maiden Claiming – $30,000 $23,000
Race 4 Claiming – $12,500 $21,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $58,000
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $56,000
Race 7 Starter Allowance – $40,000 $30,000
Race 8 Las Flores S. $100,000
Race 9 Maiden Claiming – $75,000 $35,000

Final Entries

Friday, March 6    
Race# Race Type Purse
Race 1 Maiden Claiming – $30,000 $23,000
Race 2 Claiming – $12,500 $16,000
Race 3 Starter Allowance – $40,000 $30,000
Race 4 Claiming – $8,000 $17,000
Race 5 Allowance Optional Claiming – $40,000 $58,000
Race 6 Maiden Special Weight $56,000
Race 7 Allowance Optional Claiming – $50,000 $58,000
Race 8 Claiming – $25,000 $32,000
Race 9 Maiden Claiming – $20,000 $19,000

Pedigree Analysis: Is Bigger Always Better


Tony Leonard  Dynaformer had size at 17 hands

Tony Leonard
Dynaformer had size at 17 hands

By Anne Peters

Talk to a group of horse people about conformation and you’ll get as many differing opinions as you have bystanders. Racing lore says that a good, big horse can beat a good, little horse, or wait, is it the other way around? There are examples for either side of the argument, but is there an answer to this age-old question?

Over the last few centuries the Thoroughbred has grown from something averaging around 15 hands, to today, when 16 hands is—believe it or not—considered average for the breed. To most breeders 16 hands just doesn’t cut it anymore. They want a big stallion to sire a big yearling that will look like a 2-year-old in the sale ring. They want size because buyers are looking for size, meaning that smaller stallions often start at a disadvantage.

Fortunately the cream rises to the top, expected or not. The two most expensive stallions in the United States are Tapit, who tops out at 16 hands, and War Front, at 15.3. Smaller size hasn’t been a disqualifier for either. Then there’s Distorted Humor at 15.3 hands; Speightstown at 15.3 1/2 hands; Awesome Again, More Than Ready, City Zip, Into Mischief, Exchange Rate, and Afleet Alex, all 16 hands. Tale of the Cat is 15.3 1/2 hands, English Channel is 15.3 hands. They’re not big, but they’re doing just fine as sires.

Over the last several decades most of the leading sires tended to be average or below average, 16 hands or under. Mr. Prospector, Storm Cat, Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, Gone West, El Prado, and Smart Strike were, or are, 16 hands. Halo was 15.3 hands. Danzig, at 15.3 hands and Lyphard at 15.2, were both taller than their sire Northern Dancer.

Local Trainers and Horses out of Town

Mike Anderson
March 7 – Turf Paradise
My Best Bet Race 3 Claiming $10,000
March 9 – Turf Paradise
Midday Moon Race 1 Claiming $3,000
Atac M April Race 4 Claiming $10,000
Sandi Gann
March 7 – Turf Paradise
Park Ave Race 8 Claiming $3,500
Steve Henson
March 9 – Turf Paradise
Confisio Race 5 Claiming $3,500
Jaz Unlimited Race 6 Claiming $3,500
Cindy Krasner
March 8 – Turf Paradise
Emeraldcity Kitten Race 1 Claiming $10,000
Charlene Miller
March 8 – Turf Paradise
Au Clair de Lune Race 4 Claiming $6,250


Track Name Grade Distance Surface Purse
Oaklawn Park Honeybee S. 3 1 1/16 miles Dirt $150,000
Aqueduct Tom Fool H. 3 6 furlongs Inner track $200,000
Aqueduct Gotham S. 3 1 1/16 miles Inner track $400,000
Tampa Bay Downs Florida Oaks 3 1 1/16 miles Turf $200,000
Tampa Bay Downs Hillsborough S. 3 About 1 1/8 miles Turf $150,000
Tampa Bay Downs Tampa Bay Derby 2 1 1/16 miles Dirt $350,000
Santa Anita Park San Felipe S. 2 1 1/16 miles Dirt $400,000
Santa Anita Park San Carlos S. 2 7 furlongs Dirt $250,000
Santa Anita Park Frank E. Kilroe Mile S. 1 1 mile Turf $400,000
Santa Anita Park Santa Anita H. 1 1 1/4 miles Dirt $1,000,000
Gulfstream Park Fasig-Tipton Swale S. 2 7 furlongs Dirt $200,000
Gulfstream Park Palm Beach S. 3 1 1/16 miles Turf $150,000
Gulfstream Park Gulfstream Park H. 2 1 mile Dirt $300,000
Track Name   Distance Surface Purse
Sunland Park Mt. Cristo Rey H. 4 1/2 furlongs Dirt $85,000
Delta Downs Pelican S. 7 1/2 furlongs Dirt $100,000
Oaklawn Park Hot Springs S. 6 furlongs Dirt $100,000
Fair Grounds Allen LaCombe Memorial S. About 7 1/2 furlongs Turf $60,000
Aqueduct Cat Cay S. 1 1/16 miles Inner track $100,000
Tampa Bay Downs Challenger S. 1 1/16 miles Dirt $60,000
Santa Anita Park China Doll S. 1 mile Turf $75,000

On the Muscle, Dortmund Ready for San Felipe


Photo: Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Photo: Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Sometimes a trainer just tries not to get in the way of a good horse.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert knows a thing or two about that situation, and with 3-year-old Dortmund on the muscle these days, he’s not going to hold him back.

“We just didn’t want to keep him training for another month,” Baffert said of Kaleem Shah’s undefeated contender, who rolls into the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park March 7 on a four-race win streak on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The San Felipe awards points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers toward a spot in the 20-horse starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Dortmund currently ranks seventh on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 20 points.

Last time out, the son of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown   ran to a brilliant victory in the Feb. 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II), fighting back on the inside after being passed by Firing Line to eke out the score by a head.

The 1 1/16-mile Lewis was Dortmund’s first start of 2015. As a 2-year-old he broke his maiden by 4 3/4 lengths sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita Nov. 2, shipped to Churchill Downs and aired by 7 3/4 lengths in a one-mile allowance Nov. 29, then won the Dec. 20 Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I) by a head over Firing Line in his first try at the 1 1/16-mile distance.

For the San Felipe, also run at 1 1/16 miles, Dortmund draws post 3 as the 123-pound highweight of 10 and will have regular rider Martin Garcia in the irons.

Baffert also entered Peachtree Stable’s Lord Nelson, winner of the Feb. 1 San Vincente Stakes (gr. II), going seven furlongs at Santa Anita last time out. The Pulpit colt will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano from the inside carrying 118, and showed speed while winning the Oct. 13 Speakeasy Stakes over six furlongs at Santa Anita last year.

Lord Nelson tried the San Felipe distance Nov. 29 when he ran at Churchill in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II), finishing a troubled fifth as the favorite, after bobbling at the start and getting fanned seven wide. The San Vincente victory over Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) victor Texas Red was earned in his 2015 debut, after hopping at the start and closing gamely under urging to get up late.

Making his first start of the season, while looking to preserve an intact record is DP Racing’s Ocho Ocho Ocho, winner of the Nov. 22 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (gr. II) going 1 1/16 miles. Unbeaten in three starts in 2014, the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense   posted a six-furlong bullet Feb. 26 at Santa Anita for trainer Jim Cassidy, going the distance in in 1:12 flat.

Ocho Ocho Ocho breaks from post 2 with Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith in the irons while carrying 120 pounds. The remaining contenders are all assigned 118.

Another on a win streak is Pam and Martin Wygod’s homebred Prospect Park, a son of Tapit  , who took four tries to break his maiden, but did so Nov. 27 at Santa Anita going 1 1/16 miles before coming back Jan. 30 to roll by 5 1/4 lengths over one mile at the Southern California track.

That was the most recent start for the Cliff Sise Jr. trainee, who will leave the 6 hole with Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux aboard.

Trainer Richard Mandella, a two-time winner of the San Felipe (with Soul of the Matter in 1994 and Afternoon Deelites in 1995), will try again this year with Pain and Misery, a gelded son of Bob and John  , who makes his first start beyond 6 1/2 furlongs.

“The timing is good,” Mandella said. “He’s ready to run and the San Felipe is the race that’s there. We don’t know if he’s good enough for that, but we might as well find out. He trains like he might be.”

Pain and Misery made his debut for Black Gold Racing at Del Mar last Aug. 24, finishing third before moving to Zia Park in New Mexico, where he won two straight for trainer Henry Dominguez, including the Governor’s Cup at six furlongs. Sent to Mandella, he was beaten a neck in his debut for the Hall of Fame conditioner at odds of 10-1 in the restricted Baffle Stakes going about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf Feb. 15. Flavien Prat has the mount from the outside.

Also entered are Golden Pegasus Racing and Earle Mack’s Eddie Logan Stakes winner Bolo for trainer Carla Gaines; Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams’ homebred Pulmarack, second for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in the Cal Cup Derby last out Jan. 24; and Legacy Ranch and Shirley MacPherson’s Sir Samson, third in the San Vincente in his last start for Brian Koriner.

Maiden winner The Gomper, now owned jointly by Bloom Racing Stable and Sagamore Farm, and KM Racing Enterprise’s maiden Kenjisstorm, trained by George Papaprodromou, complete the field.

San Felipe S. (gr. II)

Santa Anita Park , Saturday, March 07, 2015, Race 7
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $400,000
  • 3 yo
  • 3:00 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Weight Trainer
1 Lord Nelson (KY) Rafael Bejarano 118 Bob Baffert
2 Ocho Ocho Ocho (KY) Mike E. Smith 120 James M. Cassidy
3 Dortmund (KY) Martin Garcia 123 Bob Baffert
4 The Gomper (KY) Tyler Baze 118 Ronald W. Ellis
5 Kenjisstorm (KY) Agapito Delgadillo 118 George Papaprodromou
6 Prospect Park (KY) Kent J. Desormeaux 118 Clifford W. Sise, Jr.
7 Bolo (KY) Victor Espinoza 118 Carla Gaines
8 Pulmarack (CA) Drayden Van Dyke 118 Jerry Hollendorfer
9 Sir Samson (KY) Joseph Talamo 118 Brian J. Koriner
10 Pain and Misery (KY) Flavien Prat 118 Richard E. Mandella


Shared Belief a Massive Favorite in Big ‘Cap


Photo: Benoit Photo

Photo: Benoit Photo

The field for the $1 million, 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 7 is full, but beyond headliner Shared Belief, the race lacks the potential star power that appeared to be possible when nominations came out.

With an ownership group of Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing, Jason Litt, Alex Solis II, George Todaro, KMN Racing, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, the 4-year-old by Candy Ride   will carry the highweight of 125 pounds with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, but will only face one other fellow grade I winner in the field.

Moreno, the winner of last year’s Whitney Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, carries that distinction and will be second choice at 6-1 (Shared Belief is favored at 3-5 on the morning line), breaking from post 6 with Santiago Gonzalez aboard.

The Ghostzapper   gelding’s odds, along with the rest of the 13-horse field’s, speak to an apparent mismatch, along with the fact that Moreno finished about 33 lengths behind Shared Belief in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) last year at Santa Anita Park, albeit with a troubled trip.

“I’m not looking to beat Shared Belief as much as I’m looking for a good performance off a layoff,” said Eric Guillot, the trainer of Moreno, who hasn’t raced since the Nov. 1 Classic and will carry 121 pounds. “The whole deal is to get a good race. That’s the focus more than anything else.”

Moreno figures to be the pacesetter, along with Peter Walder-trained Sr. Quisqueyano, who is coming off his fifth non-graded stakes victory in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes Jan. 17; Diamond Bachelor, a second-place finisher in the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) Feb. 7; and much-criticized longshot Crimson Giant, who is 1-for-66 in his career, but flashed speed in a nose second going a mile his last time out.

BALAN: Crimson Giant Chasing Unlikely Big ‘Cap Glory

“He’s a one-trick pony,” Guillot said of the front-running Moreno. “He’s not going to try to reinvent the wheel. That 1-of-66 horse that doesn’t belong there showed some tactical speed, but everybody knowsthe public knows, the jockeys know(Moreno) is going to be out front.

A contested pace would set up perfectly for Shared Belief, who sat off the pace to gamely beat California Chrome and others in the 1 1/8-mile San Antonio Invitational Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 7. The Kentucky-bred did the same in his first trip over 1 1/4 miles, when he bested Toast of New York and fellow Big ‘Cap entry Imperative in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) over Del Mar‘s synthetic track Aug. 14.

Owned by KM Racing and trained by George Papaprodromou, Imperative last crossed the wire first in the Charles Town Classic Stakes (gr. II) last April 19, but has since finished no better than third in seven graded stakes tries.The 5-year-old gelding by Bernardini   has finished behind Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic, Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I), Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the San Antonio. He’ll carry 117 pounds with Kent Desormeaux in the irons.

“Shared Belief is the horse to beat,” Papaprodromou said. “He’s the best horse in the country. But you run the race and you never know. Even if you have a second or third, you can have a good race.”

A contested pace should also bode well for the hard-closing Kentucky-bred who drew post 10.

“A little speed out there will be good for us, especially with Moreno up with them,” Papaprodromou added. “With a little more distance and the weight off, my horse will appreciate it. A little here, a little there, and you never know.”

Ontario-bred Dynamic Sky is the only other graded stakes winner in the field and will break from post 4 with rider Corey Nakatani. Coming off eight straight turf attempts, including a victory in the Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIIT) Nov. 15 at Aquecuct Racetrack, the son of Sky Mesa  , owned by John Oxley and trained by Mark Casse, will be making his first dirt start since a fourth-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) in March of 2013.

More ambitious entries Bronzo, Catch a Flight, Cool Samurai, Hard Aces, Patrioticandproud, and You Know I Know complete the field.

Santa Anita H. (gr. I)

Santa Anita Park , Saturday, March 07, 2015, Race 11
  • 1 1/4m
  • Dirt
  • $1,000,000
  • 4 yo’s & up
  • 5:00 PM (local)
PP Horse Jockey Weight Trainer
1 Cool Samurai (KY) Aaron T. Gryder 114 John A. Shirreffs
2 Diamond Bachelor (KY) Martin A. Pedroza 114 Patrick L. Biancone
3 Sr. Quisqueyano (FL) Joseph Talamo 115 Peter R. Walder
4 Dynamic Sky (ON) Corey S. Nakatani 117 Mark E. Casse
5 Shared Belief (KY) Mike E. Smith 125 Jerry Hollendorfer
6 Moreno (KY) Santiago Gonzalez 121 Eric J. Guillot
7 Patrioticandproud (PA) Elvis Trujillo 116 Mark E. Casse
8 You Know I Know (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 115 John W. Sadler
9 Crimson Giant (CA) Brandon Chance Boulanger 114 Charles R. Stutts
10 Imperative (KY) Kent J. Desormeaux 117 George Papaprodromou
11 Bronzo (CHI) Tyler Baze 117 Neil D. Drysdale
12 Catch a Flight (ARG) Gary L. Stevens 114 Richard E. Mandella
13 Hard Aces (KY) Victor Espinoza 115 John W. Sadler