Shared Belief's Hidden Key to Greatness

Is Shared Belief on the threshold of greatness? From a visual standpoint, he is an anomaly. From the side, his action appears smooth, powerful, and flawless. From the front, he paddles his left front and has done it in all his races, but it has had absolutely no effect on his performance.

If Shared Belief indeed is headed for greatness, is there a key aspect to his pedigree that is taking him there?

His sire, Candy Ride certainly had greatness in him, but he did not stick around long enough to solidify it. Candy Ride traces to Fappiano through Cryptoclearance, but there are so many top-class horses who trace to Fappiano on the sire’s side, there is nothing unique about that.

On the female side, his dam, Common Hope, had a maiden win and a second in five career starts, so there is nothing to suggest greatness there. Common Hope is by Storm Cat, but then again so are hundreds of other successful dams.

Shared Belief’s pedigree is rare considering he is a complete outcross through five generations, with inbreeding to Nasrullah on the dam’s side in his sixth generation. So, his family traits spread far and wide.

So, what exactly in Shared Belief’s pedigree brings out that uniqueness that one looks for that separates a horse from the others.

The answer could very well be his maternal great-grandsire Grenfall, a horse unfamiliar to the vast majority of Americans.

Let’s go back to the spring of 1969. At Darby Dan Farm, there was great excitement in the air following the birth of Graustark’s full-bother (Ribot – Flower Bowl). Graustark was considered by those close to him, including jockey Braulio Baeza, as a freak who was destined for greatness, combining blistering speed, a powerful engine, and a Herculean physique. Unfortunately, he broke down in the slop in the Blue Grass Stakes and never raced again, but did become a major influence on the breed, passing on his speed, class, and stamina.

Now, Darby Dan had Graustark’s handsome full-brother, who would be the last foal out of Flower Bowl, who died giving birth to the colt. Farm manager Olin Gentry put the fiery colt, later to be named His Majesty, in a separate paddock, along with a companion – a placid son of Hail to Reason – Polylady, later to be named Good Counsel. The two were inseparable and were often seen up on their hind legs wrestling or just nuzzling together in their paddock. In a scenario right out of a movie, both colts would eventually meet in the Widener Handicap, with the less-fancied Good Counsel nosing out his illustrious boyhood pal.

Gentry had another yearling in that crop he felt was special and also kept him in a separate paddock, along with a flashy bay colt by Sea-Bird. The reason Gentry felt he was special was his regal pedigree and good looks. The chestnut colt was by Graustark, out of Darby Dan’s champion filly Primonetta, one of the most brilliant fillies of her era and a full-sister to their Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Chateaugay. The daughter of Swaps began her career with nine consecutive victories, including the Delaware Oaks and three other stakes. After suffering her first defeat, a neck loss in the Monmouth Oaks, she romped by five lengths in the Alabama Stakes, winning wire-to-wire and defeating Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Bowl of Flowers, a half-sister to Graustark. Primonetta went on to win the Spinster the following year and retired with 17 victories in 25 starts.

Priminetta’s chestnut colt by Graustark was the mare’s second foal, and Gentry handled him with kid gloves as well. Named Grenfall, he was sent to Vincent O’Brien in Ireland, where he won the 1 1/4-mile Gallinule Stakes, Ireland’s major prep for the Irish Derby, as well as the Vauxhall Trial Stakes and Whitehall Stakes. But unfortunately, he didn’t stay sound long enough to make a name for himself and was brought back to the States, where he eventually was sold and became a prominent stallion in California and the Northwest, siring the brilliantly fast multiple stakes-winning filly Grenzen, who produced the $2.1 million earner and grade I winner Twilight Agenda. Grenfall also sired the dam of Tribal Rule, who became the leading sire in California, siring 36 stakes winners, including grade I and other graded stakes winners, and amassing $21.3 million in earnings.

Tribal Rule’s dam, Sown, also produced Common Hope, the dam of Shared Belief. Sown’s dam, Bad Seed, produced the successful sire Pirate’s Bounty, broodmare sire of Belmont Stakes winner Da’ Tara.

After Grenfall, Primonetta would go on to produce the Graustark filly Maud Muller, winner of the Gazelle Handicap in a stakes record 1:46 4/5 and Ashland Stakes, and placed in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Mother Goose, and Test Stakes; the Hail to Reason colt Prince Thou Art, winner of the Florida Derby, defeating Foolish Pleasure, and placed in the Travers, Blue Grass Stakes, and Flamingo Stakes; and the Hail to Reason filly Cum Laude Laurie, winner of the grade I Delaware Oaks, Ruffian Handicap, Beldame, and Spinster, and placed in the Alabama Stakes and Mother Goose Stakes.

Grenfall could have been any kind, and looked like many of the Graustarks, with that handsome, chiseled head, and had that look of Swaps stamped on him as well.

Where his name shows up, so does class and brilliance. And here he is as the maternal great-grandsire of Shared Belief. Who knows, he just could be the key to the colt’s class and brilliance.

Grenfall was the personification of what Darby Dan Farm has stood for over the past six decades. For owner John Galbreath, who also owned the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was all about the classics and classic horses, many of whom were injected with the speed of Graustark and Swaps (who stood at Darby Dan for years) and Primonetta.

Also going unnoticed by many was the Darby Dan blood that coursed through the veins of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, whose second dam was by the Darby Dan-bred Preakness and Belmont winner Little Current, and whose third dam, Cherished Moment, was a Darby Dan-bred daughter of Graustark. Both Little Current and Cherished Moment were yearlings at Darby Dan in 1972.

So, once again, where does Shared Belief’s class and brilliance come from? Yes, it could be Candy Ride and it could be Storm Cat, but if you look beyond the obvious, there is an excellent chance it comes from Grenfall and his classy and brilliant sire and dam. Not only is Shared Belief a complete outcross through his first five generations, Grenfall is inbred to the legendary stallion Hyperion, as is Shared Belief’s great granddam Bad Seed, so there are four shots of Hyperion in Shared Belief’s sixth and seventh generations.

Thanks to the remarkable accomplishments of Shared Belief, that handsome, regally bred yearling pictured below finally has made a profound impact on the breed on a national level, just as he was intended to do back in 1969. Through Grenfall, Shared Belief truly is  an extension of the Darby Dan legacy.


Grenfall as a yearling has that sleek, chiseled Graustark look.


Grenfall welcomed the attention, but His Majesty (standing by his fence in background) wanted all the attention focused on him.


A portrait of Grenfall.


Primonetta with her future Florida Derby winner Prince Thou Art.


Primonetta dashes across the field with a baby Maud Muller, eventual winner of the Gazelle Handicap in stakes record time.

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