A tribute to Shared Belief
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
Thoroughbred racing has been fortunate of late to have several extremely talented and well-accomplished runners. On Friday afternoon, Del Mar remembers the career of the one of the most gifted this decade with the running of the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes at one mile over the main track.
The star son of Candy Ride lost his life due to unexpected complications from colic in December of 2015, but in my opinion Shared Belief was as talented as any runner I have seen run since the start of the twenty-first century. Sure, he did not win a Triple Crown or even a Breeders’ Cup event, but when healthy and on the track, Shared Belief was as brilliant as they come.
Shared Belief’s life was tragically cut short, but he accomplished an incredible amount during his nearly perfect 12-race career. He began things with a perfect 3 for 3 record and an Eclipse Award during his two-year-old campaign in 2013. The championship juvenile season was completed with an eye-popping 5 3/4-length victory in the Cash Call Futurity (G1) in December at Hollywood Park.
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee would have been on a path to compete in the top three-year-old events of the spring, but a foot injury during the early part of 2014 kept him out of the Triple Crown races.
The ailment may have prevented him from competing against the likes of California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness Stakes (G1) and the Belmont Stakes (G1), but Shared Belief was back dominating races by the summer. He not only captured the Los Alamitos Derby (G2) against his three-year-old peers, but he also beat older runners including Game on Dude in the 2014 Pacific Classic (G1).
Shared Belief remained unbeaten after a narrow win against Fed Biz in the Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita and was made the 5-2-favorite in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 1, 2014. However, he lost all chance when eventual winner Bayern came out sharply on him at the start. He still ran on for a game fourth despite the horrible trip.
The Jungle Racing runner came back in 2015 and rattled off consecutive victories in the San Antonio (G2) and the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) before heading to West Virginia for the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic (G2). Shared Belief was sent off the prohibitive 1-5-favorite, but stumbled at the start and was pulled up by jockey Mike Smith. He would never race again.
While it is very difficult to compare Shared Belief to more accomplished runners like Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2014 Horse of the Year and 2016 Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome, I am of the firm belief that the son of Candy Ride needs to be included amongst the best of his era.
As much as I dislike making too much of one race, it is hard to ignore that Shared Belief beat California Chrome on the square in the 2015 San Antonio. California Chrome is most certainly a different horse in his five-year-old campaign, but the fact of that loss remains.
Most impressive to me was Shared Belief’s affinity for the classic distance of a mile and a quarter. He posted a strong 111 BRIS Speed figure in the 2014 Pacific Classic and backed that up with a 105 in the 2015 Santa Anita Handicap. These compare quite favorably to the most acclaimed runners of this decade at the 1 1/4-mile trip. American Pharoah posted a 113 BRIS Speed rating in his dominant score in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic and a 100 in his victory in the first jewel of the Triple Crown. California Chrome laid down a 103 in his 2014 Kentucky Derby score and most recently put up a career best 112 in the 2016 Pacific Classic.
In addition to his affinity for the classic distance, Shared Belief’s ability to beat older handicap horses as a three-year-old must be noted. Unlike most in the current climate, Jerry Hollendorfer allowed his star runner to take on four-year-olds and up before the fall. Not only was Shared Belief able to compete with his older rivals in July, but he defeated them soundly with only five races “under his belt” in the 2014 Pacific Classic. Since the start of the century, only Dullahan and Came Home had won Del Mar’s premier event at the age of three and Shared Belief did it going away.
To be clear, by no means do I think it is fair to say that Shared Belief was better than the other top runners of this decade. Winning the biggest races is paramount when discussing greatness and Shared Belief did not hit the wire first in any of those. Additionally, staying on the racetrack is also vital if we are talking all-time greats. Finally, winning outside of one’s “home turf” at multiple venues cannot be underestimated. Shared Belief failed in his only start outside of California.
What I would argue is that when on the racetrack, Shared Belief was one of the most gifted racehorses I have seen in my day. His ability to run consistently despite the race shape and his nearly robotic stride are something that I will not soon forget.
It is a real shame that his career and life were cut short.
In addition to the race in Shared Belief’s honor, his owner and acclaimed sports broadcaster Jim Rome will be broadcasting his show live “The Jungle” from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on Friday afternoon from 9-12 PM local time (PDT) on 1090 AM.
The Shared Belief Stakes is the seventh race on the Friday eight-race program that kicks off at 3:30 PM local time.
Photo courtesy of Benoit