Starting to Believe in this Horse

Profile Picture: Molly Jo Rosen

Molly Jo Rosen

October 22nd, 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece that said "before we anoint Shared Belief the second coming of Secretariat, let’s remember that he may not even be the best of his generation."

Today, though? I might be a changed woman.

"Might" being the key word there.

Here's what happened: #TeamBetAmerica took a trip out to Golden Gate Fields on Tuesday morning to watch the reigning 2yo Champion, the prohibitive Breeders' Cup Classic favorite AND leading Horse of the Year candidate turn in his final major prep before a run at America's richest race next Saturday. There is still an easy 4f maintenance move next week.

It was just after 7am, the sun was starting to turn from black to yellow to blue, and there was a palpable electricity in the air that comes with equine athletes strutting their stuff.

With racing's winningest jockey Russell Baze aboard in his usual red jacket, Shared Belief stepped onto the track with a blazed-chestnut lead pony. They backtracked to the eighth pole and stood just off the rail facing the infield for a minute or two to get acclimated to the surroundings as horses galloped by.

When it was time to work, horse and rider broke off from the pony and picked up speed: starting at a jog just past the wire, they were in full flight rounding the turn and heading towards the 6f pole.

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer showed his horsemanship sending a pair of workmates with Shared Belief. By giving him a target to run at, 'Dorfer simulated race conditions and gave the gelding a target for the entire 6f drill.

The workmates? Hard to Please on the outside is a 5yo bay mare who has won multiple races, but eased out of this drill turning for home in similar fashion to what she did in her last start. Prodicious Facts was on the inside and is a well-bred 2yo filly with just one start under the belt.

A good trainer like 'Dorfer knows you normally can't work a pair of ladies with a male horse... but given that the son of Candy Ride has been gelded for well over a year, the inclinations of a normal 3yo colt (think a 17yo boy!) simply aren't there.

It's not about Shared Belief's 1:14 flat (on my watch) time.

I could wax poetic about the fractions the dark bay set or how he pounced on the pair ahead of him at the quarter pole.

But what caught my eye was how he rolled up the rail - by design after his last few starts - when he caught Prodicious Facts before the 8th pole and just kept going. Baze didn't have a loose rein, but he also wasn't putting any pressure on a gelding known for getting a little lazy in the mornings.

The move was workmanlike, but it was effortless. It was the kind of drill a good horse puts in before a big race. Frankly: it looked a lot like Fort Larned's last move before his 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic score.

I don't know if Shared Belief wins America's richest race next week, but for someone who - even staring down a perfect 7-for-7 record - needed a little convincing... this work was enough to make me think we might just be dealing with greatness. We'll see in a few short days.