DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) -- Shared Belief's hind hit the starting gate when it sprang open, while defending champion Game On Dude shot to the lead.
For a split second, Mike Smith wondered if had chosen the right horse to ride.
In the end, he did.
Shared Belief won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 2 3/4 lengths at Del Mar on Sunday, improving to 6-0 in his career.
The 3-year-old gelding ran 1 1/4 miles on Polytrack in 2:00.28 and paid $4.40, $3.20 and $2.80 as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 10.
"After we got away bad sometimes you have to pull a rabbit out of you know what," Smith said. "I had a rabbit."
Game On Dude, the 7-year-old gelding Smith jilted to ride the younger unbeaten horse, finished fourth after being pressed on the pace by Mystery Train.
"They always want to go after him," said Bob Baffert, who trains Game On Dude. "I hate to see that. I think he was going to win if they hadn't gone after him like that. It's frustrating to train a horse and get him ready for his biggest race and have a horse who has no shot to win take that chance away."
In changing horses, Smith figured Game On Dude is much closer to the end of his career than Shared Belief.
"I wanted this race so bad," he said.
Toast of New York returned $5.20 and $4.60, while Imperative was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $8.40 to show.
There was a stewards' inquiry involving Shared Belief and Toast of New York in the stretch, but they made no change to the order of finish after reviewing video. Toast of New York was in the middle, with Shared Belief on the outside and Game On Dude on the inside.
"I don't believe I caused any trouble in the stretch," Smith said. "When I came over, I had room."
Victor Espinoza, aboard Toast of New York, disagreed, saying, "Mike's horse did come over on us and I had to take a hold. Maybe it's different if I don't."