For much of the spring, construction crews in Fair Hill, Md., have been working on a 165-foot water tower which – though built in a “retro” style to blend in with the surrounding area – can be seen for miles and certainly gets noticed by the racehorses at nearby Fair Hill Training Center.
Breeders’ Cup winner and Royal Ascot entrant Sharing only pays attention sometimes, however, and it’s a good indicator of her mindset.
“When she goes out to the round pen, it looks like her groom is flying a kite; she’s looking at everything and hates all the commotion,” said Lauren Mendenhall, the filly’s exercise rider. “Going to the track, the construction noise is still there, it’s the same water tower across the field, but she just walks out there like nothing. She doesn’t even look at it. Going to the track, I think a bomb could go off and she’d be ready to do her job.”
Sharing has been like that for a while. Trained for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gainesway Stable by Mendenhall’s boss Graham Motion, Sharing takes a 4-for-5 record to England for Saturday’s Coronation Stakes. The daughter of Speightstown finished third in her debut at Saratoga last summer, won an off-the-turf maiden a few weeks later, parlayed that into victories in the Selima Stakes at Laurel Park in September and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita in November. Delayed by a minor training setback in Florida and the coronavirus shutdown, Sharing made her 3-year-old debut at Churchill Downs and won the Tepin Stakes May 23.
Discussed but not necessarily planned for, Royal Ascot became a reality after that fourth consecutive win and Sharing put the finishing touches on her preparations with a 6-furlong breeze over Fair Hill’s Tapeta track Friday. In company with Grade 2 winner Mrs. Sippy, Sharing stopped Motion’s watch in 1:14.60 and galloped out 7 furlongs in 1:26 and change. The trainer loved it.
“They went a proper seven-eighths, but if you ever walked up that hill at Ascot you’d want your horse to go a proper seven-eighths,” he said.
First run in 1840, the Coronation is a major stop for 3-year-old fillies on the European calendar and takes enough speed to outrun Grade 1 horses over a mile but enough stamina to handle the uphill nature of the Old Mile layout. The race begins near Swinley Bottom, Ascot’s lowest point, and rises to a single right-handed turn for a slightly uphill homestretch of about 3 furlongs. The Motion-trained Miss Temple City finished fourth in the 2015 Coronation, weakening just slightly in the final stages as the winner Ervedya charged past six horses in the final quarter-mile.
Sharing has a ways to go to match the career of Miss Temple City, who went on to defeat males twice in Grade 1 stakes at a mile, but to this point in their careers has an advantage as Miss Temple City had yet to win a graded stakes before her Coronation try.
A field of 11 is expected for the race, the third on Saturday’s card with a post time of 9:25 Eastern time Saturday morning. Coolmore’s Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Peaceful, from the barn of Aidan O’Brien, is the 2-1 favorite while Sharing is listed as the co-fourth choice at 6-1 by most oddsmakers.
Bred in Maryland by Sagamore Farm and a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga graduate, Sharing has been one of Mendenhall’s favorites since the beginning.
“I remember taking her to the track the first time when she came in as a 2-year-old,” she said. “She came in at a different time, not necessarily early or late, but on a Wednesday and the others had been there for a day or two or something. They were all going a little farther that day, so we went up with some other horses. I had company going to the track, but she did everything by herself. She just marched herself right on up there and galloped all by herself and I was like, ‘Oh boy.’ ”
From there it was more of the same. Gate work? Easy. Longer gallops? No problem. Breezes? Quick, to the point and on demand.
“If we presented her with something new, the next day she would have it,” Mendenhall said. “There was never a chestnut-filly moment, that should make sense to everybody . . . She’s not quirky, she’s straightforward, a pleasure to ride.”
Mendenhall accompanied the chestnut filly to the Breeders’ Cup last year and she again handled everything with aplomb – including 13 rivals in the race at almost 14-1. After shipping to Florida for a supposed return to the races in March, Sharing instead came back to Fair Hill after her first breeze at Palm Meadows in early February and a new target – Pimlico’s Hilltop Stakes on Preakness Day – and then another new target when the pandemic shut down racing. Unveiled at Churchill Downs for the 1-mile Tepin, Sharing scored by a half-length over Abscond and earned a ticket to England.
Motion opted to ship late – her flight left early Tuesday morning via a van ride from Fair Hill to Keeneland Sunday night and another to Indianapolis International Airport late Monday night – just to control as much as he could. Human international travelers face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in England, so Motion won’t be at Ascot and neither will Mendenhall, but Sharing will meet traveling assistant Alice Clapham (who went two weeks early) at Newmarket. Likewise, Sharing's regular jockey Manny Franco won't be on hand. The quarantine rules would have made it difficult, but he's also aboard Belmont Stakes favorite Tiz The Law that day so England's champion jockey of 2019 Oisin Murphy takes the call.
The final work at Fair Hill Friday was similar to Sharing’s move a week before the Breeders’ Cup, and should be an ideal tightener.
“It’s good to be nervous for a workout,” Motion said upon talking things over with Mendenhall afterward. “It’s been a while since I’ve been nervous for a workout, but that’s a good thing, right? It means you’re trying to do something meaningful.”
Mendenhall wasn’t so sure beforehand.
“I was super nervous,” she said. “Normally, I’m in the baby barn so I don’t get those opportunities that often. I remember saying, ‘I kind of feel like I’m going to throw up’ on the way out there. She totes me along, but as soon as she sets off at the pole and you’re working, it’s easy for her. I don’t have to ask her to do anything, she gets competitive. The only thing I do is hold her for the right time. She’s very determined.”
In addition to Mrs. Sippy, who won the 1 3/8-mile Glens Falls at Saratoga last summer, Sharing has worked with Grade 2 winner Varenka and recent Churchill Downs winner Crystal Cliffs. Nobody presses too hard to “win,” but Sharing throws her punches.
“Every time they ask her the question,” Mendenhall said, “she answers it.”
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Exercise rider Lauren Mendenhall rode Sharing last fall, including at Santa Anita before her Breeders' Cup win, but didn’t get aboard again until February when the filly returned to Fair Hill from Florida. Any changes?
“She’s twice as big as she was, she’s huge, or it feels like it. She’s grown. Up and out. She was pretty sharp for most of the spring. I was afraid Graham was going to give her to one of the boys to ride, because she was towing me for a while. After she ran, it was very hard to explain. She was still sharp, but she’s more focused. I think she needed to run. She totes me along and wants to do her job, but she’s more relaxed in doing that since she ran.”
Was she always your ride?
“She didn’t have a consistent rider as a 2-year-old. She was so nice that she was easy to give to everyone in the lower barn so I think everyone rode her at least a few times. She left early to go to Alice (Clapham) at Saratoga and then came home for about a month and a half before the Breeders’ Cup and had a rider from the main barn . . . Give credit where credit is due for her Breeders’ Cup win, which is to the barn as a whole. Everyone had a hand in it. I have been her regular rider since she came back to Fair Hill this spring and it’s a privilege to ride her.”
Photo by Maggie Kimmitt.