Jim Rome Is Hooked On Horse Racing
by John Mucciolo
Unbeaten champion Shared Belief will be the favorite in Saturday's $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. The classy son of Candy Ride has handled everything thrown at him to date -- from synthetic and dirt surfaces, sprint and route races alike, and most recently, traveling widest of all every step of the way but still getting the job done in a resilient score in the Awesome Again Stakes over the track on September 27.
The three-year-old has reportedly been training in fine fashion and looks to be coming into his biggest test in peak condition.
Purchased privately for an undisclosed sum out of his debut romp at Golden Gate Fields, Shared Belief certainly appears appears capable of winning the most lucrative event in U. S. racing. Facing a mostly uninspiring collection of older runners, as well as several three-year-old threats that must ship cross-country or even across the pond, he will be on his home court at a 10-furlong trip that he's handled before.
One could argue that the handsome gelding should even be odds-on in the Classic under pilot Mike Smith.
The sublime Kentucky-bred gelding races for a partnership led by prominent television and radio personality Jim Rome of Jungle Racing LLC. I recently had a Q&A session with the California resident who will attempt to win his third Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship race as an owner in as many years, following triumphs in 2012 and 2013 with Turf Sprint starlet Mizdirection.
John Mucciolo: You were not always a huge fan of horse racing if I am not mistaken -- what shifted your opinion to becoming a fan?
Jim Rome: My alleged animus against horse racing back in the day is largely overrated. Yes, years ago I did say, "Horse racing isn't a sport, but rather a bet." And trust me, it's still a bet. But it's a great sport. And I didn't have this great bias against the sport. That said, I fell in love with the sport short after my wife Janet and I bought into a colt named Wing Forward several years ago. He went from worst to first in his first North American race and I was there to see it. It gave me an unbelievable jolt and once that hit my bloodstream, I was hooked.
JM: If you were a race horse, what kind would you be? A Sprinter, Turf Miler, Marathoner, Classic Type, etc.?
JR: The next one is the biggest one so I'm going to have to go with a Classic type.
JM: You have endured incredible success in a short period of time with a small sample of horses. Two Breeders' Cup wins, a champion juvenile etc. Do you have a favorite moment to this point?
JR: Truth is, while we've been very fortunate the last couple of years with Shared Belief and Mizdirection, but that wasn't always the case. We actually went several years before we even entered a stakes race, much less won one. And we have invested in plenty of horses that most folks probably have never heard of. It was challenging and frustrating, but we would never appreciate the success we've had in recent years had we not endured those times early on.
If I had to pick a single favorite moment, it would be Mizdirection winning the BC Turf Sprint in 2012. Just being in a race of that magnitude had been a pipedream. And to see her come from as far back as she did, on one of the sport's biggest stage, after a six-month layoff is still one of the spectacular moments of my entire life. It was absolutely surreal.
JM: Do you have future plans to get more partners in, have a bigger stable, etc.?
JR: As far as our future plans ... we're partners in a Pioneerof the Nile yearling that our bloodstock agents Alex Solis and Jason Litt recently purchased for us. And those two are always on the lookout for additional stock. We also bred a couple fillies from our mare, Surfer Girl, that are coming along and hope to run them at some point.
JM: What are your expectations for Shared Belief in the Classic?
JR: Shared Belief has done everything we've ever asked of him. But we've never asked anything like this of him: a mile and a quarter, on the dirt, against the best in the world. It's a very big swing. But he's talented and gritty, and with any kind of racing luck, he should be a factor when they turn for home.
JM: You told me you went across the pond to see 'Miz -- how did that experience rank in your racing career?
JR: Seeing Mizdirection this past summer was one of my favorite moments since getting into the game.
I love the big mare, and sending her off to auction right after she repeated in the Breeders Cup was gut-wrenching. But I did like the idea of her going out a champ and knew she'd live a great life as a broodmare. And she is. She's loving life in France and it was great to see her out in a pasture with her friends. Horse racing has produced so many surreal and spectacular moments and seeing her like that was another one.