Spoiler Alert - By Eric Mitchell

Here’s Shared Belief poised to steal the show once again.

After the Triple Crown, conventional wisdom had all but conceded 3-year-old male championship honors to California Chrome. The argument for draping a champion’s mantle across the withers of Lucky Pulpit’s son didn’t have many holes. A homebred for Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome had strung together five consecutive stakes victories including the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Every 3-year-old male champion since 2000 had won at least one of the three American classics, and seven champions during this period had won two legs of the Triple Crown.

More on 2000’s champion later.

Enter Shared Belief to start raising doubts about what had once seemed so certain. The son of Candy Ride also created a stir last year by being named 2-year-old champion male even though he was a no-show in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer passed on the Juvenile because the race was too close to the date the gelding had broken his maiden, a seven-length blowout Oct. 19 at Golden Gate Fields. Hollendorfer had his eye on the grade I $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park. The trainer tuned Shared Belief up in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III), which he won by 73⁄4 lengths, and then took the CashCall Futurity by 53⁄4 lengths to remain undefeated for the year.

Eclipse Award voters didn’t see a clear choice for 2013 juvenile champion honors but gave the nod to Shared Belief by awarding him 115 first-place votes to 99 votes cast for Juvenile winner New Year’s Day. Shared Belief became only the fourth 2-year-old male champion to have bypassed the Juvenile.

As it would turn out, a quarter crack took Shared Belief off the Derby trail and kept him out of the classics. The gelding, owned by Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing, Kevin Nish’s KMN Racing, Alex Solis II, Jason Litt, George Todaro, and Hollendorfer, wouldn’t make his first start as a sophomore until May 26 in an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields. His next start would be another romp, July 5 in the Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II). But Shared Belief was just getting started. He catapulted into championship consideration with a powerful 23⁄4-length victory in $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) over a field that included three grade/group I winners—Game On Dude, Majestic Harbor, and Mystery Train—and four other graded stakes winners. The final time of 2:00.28 was slightly off the track record of 1:59.54 for 11⁄4 miles.

The last horse to win 3-year-old male championship honors and bypass the Triple Crown races did so in 2000. That champion was Tiznow. The son of Cee’s Tizzy had not even broken his maiden until May 31 of his sophomore year at Hollywood Park. Then he went on a tear through the second half of the racing year, winning the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III), Super Derby (gr. I), and the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) before capturing his first of back-to-back victories in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). Prior to the Super Derby, he would also place second in the Swaps Stakes and the Pacific Classic (both gr. I).

Not only did Tiznow become the champion 3-year-old male, but he also took Horse of the Year honors.

What race fans didn’t get to see last year and what they are hoping to see this year will be a head-to-head between still-undefeated Shared Belief and his rival for end-of-the-year honors. No one wants to speculate about what-ifs. Competition tells the tale and fortunately we may not have to wait for the Classic. For some time, California Chrome’s path to the Classic has been expected to pass through Parx Racing and its $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) Sept. 20. Recently Hollendorfer said the Pennsylvania Derby was a serious consideration for Shared Belief, too, because the race was one week earlier than the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.

Could it get any better than this? The Pennsylvania Derby could just whet the appetite for an ultimate showdown in the Classic with everything on the line. Should Shared Belief beat California Chrome in the Pennsylvania Derby, we could get a Classic grudge match—a chance for redemption or to claim unmitigated supremacy. And not just for the 3-year-old male champion title but possibly a golden Horse of the Year trophy to go with it. 

11 Comments

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Coldfacts

Shared Belief has won all his 6 starts. Three of those victories have been subsequent to being sidelined by foot issues. His action is not very smooth and there must be some concerns about his potential long term soundness with regular starts on the hard SA Speedway.

His connections have avoided shipping out of state to contest major 3YO races since his return. Have they been cunningly picking their spots or is there some other reason? The Haskell, Jim Dandy, Travers were never on his schedule. Why were those races avoided?

Of his 6 victories, none have been against the top 3YOs in the country. If this trend continues the prospect of him contesting the PA Derby is very remote. The older horses that he has defeated cannot be considered the cream of the division. Five of his victories have been recorded on synthetic surfaces. Is synthetic his preferred surface or the one that best suites his suspect action?

His victory in the Pacific Classic over a spent GOD and company has propelled him to the top horse in the country status in the views of many. Was his victory more impressive than that recorded by Dullahan in 2012? Dullahan defeated a much younger and more competitive GOD en route to a record time of 1:59.54 for the synthetic surface.

If the BCC was being contested on synthetic he would be a lock. However, I am not convinced that Shared Belief can win over 10F on dirt against the top 3YO & 4YO routers. I am of the opinion that his sestet action  will be a negative against a talented group of smooth striding cruisers and closers over 10F on dirt.

03 Sep 2014 1:23 PM
Coldfacts

Two major G1, 10F races were contested last weekend i.e., Travers and Pacific Classic. One was restricted to 3YOs and the other was for 3YOs and older. The Pacific Classis was won by 3YO Shared Belief and the Travers by V E Day. The victories of both horses could not be more different.

Shared Belief was the 4-5 ML favorite to win the Pacific Classic and his 4th graded stake. V E Day had a ML of 15-1 to win his graded stakes debut in a G1 race competing against 6 graded stakes winners including the Belmont winner. There can be no doubt as to which horse had the greater challenge.

En route to victory, Shared Belief passed the tiring 7YO Game On Dude like he was glued to the ground and just had to be kept up to his work. As a 3YO Shared Belief was in receipt of 6lbs from his older  opponents VED had to pull out all the stops to defeat a fellow talented 3YO and a multiple graded stakes winner that had kicked wickedly for home and was not coming back to the field.

As a 3YO Shared Belief was in receipt of 6lbs from his older PC opponents. V E Day picked up 7Lbs from his last start and was at level weights of 126lbs with his opponents. Shared Belief scored his expected Pacific Classic victory and has since been the talk of the town. Those caught up in the euphoria of his victory and potential greatness have missed the unprecedented occurrence in the Travers and its unlikeliness.

03 Sep 2014 1:31 PM
Ranagulzion

In a possible Pennsylvania Derby clash Shared Belief would have a fitness edge over California Chrome but shipping him outside of California to compete would have to be viewed positively. Nothwithstanding,the competition should put the edge back on "Chrome" for the big Breeder's Cup showdown  

03 Sep 2014 3:16 PM
Daniel Jividen

Nice article.  But don't forget Tonalist,  Wicked Strong, and V.E. Day might still have something to say about the 3 year old championship.

03 Sep 2014 4:36 PM
West Lookout

Shared Belief's time in the Pacific Classic and the ease with which he overhauled the field made his effort more impressive than VE Day's Travers win. But no mention of Atreides? You better believe he's in the mix.

04 Sep 2014 12:06 AM
Tommyboomer

Interesting article, and a bunch of good points by Coldfacts. I think Shared Belief is a great horse, but is over-hyped at this point. I also think a race against California Chrome in PA, would be interesting, but in fairness to CC, he's coming off more than a 3 month layoff. Not sure if he'll be at his sharpest.

The Awesome again will be telling if some decent horses show up. Last year it had MMM and Paynter, hard to know who'll be running in it this year.

VE day is interesting, but one race, does not make a horse.

By the way, has anybody heard a thing from Danz?. He was the new super horse heading into the Derby, but has vanished from sight.

04 Sep 2014 9:52 AM
Owlbet

Shared Belief is nothing more than a "hype" horse.  

04 Sep 2014 10:20 AM
JerseyBoy

I like to judge horses by what they did, not by what they did not do. It is all a matter of speculation what would have happened if so and so had occurred.

Shared Belief is an unbeaten multiple graded stakes winner. In his last start he was 0.34 seconds off the track record. He beat an open field at weight for age.

Wise Dan is also a multiple graded stakes winner. He has lost one race over the past 12 months. In his last start he gave weight to all of his competition. He carried 127 lbs and was only 0.17 seconds off the track record which was set by a horse who was carrying 115 lbs, more than 20 years ago.

This places them way clear of the rest.

It is no contest at this stage. It is a two-horse race at this point. No one else is even close.

It does not mean that either will get the Horse of the Year award because that is an election.

04 Sep 2014 12:02 PM
Proud Acres

I always look at the championships as what horse has done the most for the current year.  Not what happened last year but what has been done this year.  CC is such a fighter, hopefully he will be fit enough to get the job done in the PA derby.  I think it is exciting coming into the breeders cup, all of horse racing can only benefit if both these horses go against each other and then again in the classic.  I think we have some exciting 3 year olds coming up which will make the Classic this year so exciting.  I am so lucky to be able to make it to the Breeders Cup this year and can't wait to see CC in person.

04 Sep 2014 4:56 PM
Harrison

Coldfacts: I share your opinion and I also think too many are ignoring Wicked Strong & V.E.Day. Tonalist was always overrated and obviously needs long lay-offs between efforts to be successful. Shared Belief's pedigree includes a long line of "champions" with career-ending foot/ankle injuries which he's apparently inherited. He'll probably be best on turf--maybe the next Wise Dan.  

I am curious to see the video of Chrome's public work on Saturday at Los Al. Hope he still has his "kick" and there aren't any lingering effects from his injury in the Belmont.

05 Sep 2014 11:39 PM
Pedigree Ann

I don't believe in giving extra credit for being unbeaten on the year - it usually means the horse hasn't run against the toughest possible competition more than once if at all. These horses are not Slews or Affirmeds or Bids or Ack Acks. Winning one big race is enough to get a horse called 'great' these days, it seems.

Tonalist and VE Day are 'one-hit wonders' at this point. And, as a 3yo, so is Shared Belief. People seem to love to get carried away by speculation these days; I guess it comes from the better horses not running against each other frequently the way they used to. Without much data to rely on, our imaginations are free to dream up all sorts of scenarios. Then to argue endlessly about whose scenario is the right one.

I liked it better when things were settled on the track. Affirmed finished in front of Alydar every time at 3; Alydar could only get a 'win' over him with a DQ: Affirmed was the champ. Sunday Silence beat Easy Goer 3 times on neutral tracks, Easy Goer beat Sunday Silence once on his home track: Sunday Silence is the champ. Clean and simple.

07 Sep 2014 6:07 AM

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