07/06/2014 10:51AM

Watchmaker: Shared Belief sets up intriguing second half

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Shared Belief’s dominating victory in the Los Alamitos Derby got a couple of small housekeeping issues out of the way. The race was Shared Belief’s first score on a conventional dirt surface and first win going as far as 1 1/8 miles. But let’s not kid ourselves. Not many, if any of us, entertained any serious concerns that the undefeated and untested champion 2-year-old male of 2013 would be undone by such trivial circumstances.

In a larger sense, what Shared Belief’s romp Saturday really did was generate considerable intrigue for the second half of this season, both in Shared Belief’s 3-year-old male division and beyond. As we all know, foot issues precluded Shared Belief from competing in the Triple Crown events. In his absence, California Chrome went on a sensational run after taking the California Cup Derby, winning the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby in overwhelming fashion, and then landing the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Still, there are those who think that California Chrome’s loss in the Belmont Stakes left the door open, however slightly, in the 3-year-old male division. And with the older male division (let’s call it the Breeders’ Cup Classic division for the moment) looking a little more shaky than it did just a little while ago – Palace Malice is very good, but can he keep this up all year; Lea is still a ways off from coming back; Game On Dude has become erratic; I’m still not totally believing Moonshine Mullin; Will Take Charge just isn’t in top form; who knows what kind of Mucho Macho Man we’ll get when he returns – there is obvious opportunity at the top for an immense talent like Shared Belief.

That said, Shared Belief is going to have to do some heavy lifting if he is going to be a genuine threat to California Chrome for divisional supremacy. You have to go all the way back to 1969 and Majestic Prince to find a horse who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and did not win the 3-year-old male championship. Since then, the 12 horses who won the Derby and Preakness and were denied a Triple Crown sweep in the Belmont all went on to be voted divisional champion, as did the one colt who won the Derby and Preakness and was unable to run in the Belmont.

Moreover, in 1969, there were very different dynamics at play than there are today in the potential scenarios involving California Chrome and Shared Belief. Arts and Letters, who was the champion 3-year-old male of 1969, was a narrowly beaten second to Majestic Prince in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, won the Met Mile over his elders right after the Preakness, and soundly beat Majestic Prince in the Belmont. Arts and Letters then went on to win the Jim Dandy, Travers, Woodward, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, all in decisive fashion.

It may well be that Shared Belief is every bit the equal of California Chrome in terms of sheer ability, if not clearly superior. But in terms of accomplishment, this year, anyway, Shared Belief still has much to do.

** A Twitter follower posted to me Saturday that he thought the Europeans were 3-5 to sweep the two big 3-year-old turf races at Belmont Park Saturday, the Belmont Derby and the Belmont Oaks. I couldn’t disagree with him. So I think it was a surprise for many that the Europeans didn’t win either race.

Adelaide would have. Aidan O’Brien’s colt looked like he was 1-5 the way he was traveling on the far turn of the Belmont Derby and looked shorter than that when he easily tipped out in upper stretch for a clear run. But as soon as Adelaide struck the front in upper stretch, he immediately and obviously idled, an observation confirmed by the fact that after upset winner Mr Speaker took a deep stretch lead of almost a length, Adelaide came back on to miss by a neck.

The Euros never looked during the running as though they’d win the Belmont Oaks, which was taken in less of an upset by Minorette. Xcellence, who was the strongest European shipper on paper in this race by far, went off at an icy 3-1 and finished a non-threatening fourth. A Belmont second-floor acquaintance remarked to me before the Oaks and reiterated after that European jocks almost always seem lost when they come over and ride at Belmont. After watching Gerald Mosse’s ride on Xcellence, his theory might have some merit.

** There was a really nice crowd Saturday at Belmont. It’s hard to know if they were attracted by a stakes-packed card with lots of international flavor, a T-shirt giveaway, a betting voucher giveaway, an inspired promotion that gave out admission tickets for the day on Belmont Stakes Day, a bunch of terrific food trucks (don’t laugh, upper-end food trucks have huge followings all over the country), or simply perfect weather, but whatever brought them out, it was good to see.

However, I just wonder about the two anchors of the card, the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks. I understand that these races in their current iteration (don’t forget, they used to be the Jamaica and Garden City and were run during the Belmont fall meet) will need time to realize their full potential. But I don’t think anyone will conclude that because they won the Belmont Derby and Belmont Oaks, Mr Speaker and Minorette are now players in the 3-year-old male and 3-year-old female divisions. The thought is frankly ridiculous. And I doubt anyone will think that Mr Speaker and Minorette can, right now, even be fringe players against older male and female turf performers, even if those divisions right now are soft. The truth is the 3-year-old male and female turf divisions are niche sub-divisions that are essentially for those who couldn’t cut it on the main track.

** Taking nothing away from the incredible progress he has made, but Zivo’s win in the Suburban was frustrating and not only because I was so pari-mutuelly invested in runner-up Moreno. As horseplayers, it is ingrained in us to be skeptical of horses coming off perfectly set up wins. Zivo had an ideal set up last time out in the Commentator Handicap for New York-breds and just got up in the last jump. Now, Zivo was running against ostensibly better with a less ideal set up. So for him to win, and win decisively, was not something I anticipated – at all.

** He lured us in with repeated good tries despite one bad trip after another, and another, and finally, Clearly Now put it all together in the Belmont Sprint Championship. His track record performance was sensational and really wasn’t all that much more than we thought he might be capable of. Now, let’s see him do it again.

** I will admit I didn’t think Kid Cruz could ever be a significant stakes horse after his dismal showing in the Preakness, but I was wrong. Kid Cruz beat some nice horses in the Dwyer. Two things to think about going forward, however: Kid Cruz was in a very long drive Saturday, and he did drift out significantly during the stretch run.

noocheroni More than 1 year ago
Last two "wins" Golden Gate, Los Alamitos big deal, lets see what happens when he comes to SARATOGA.
JimMcCarthy1 More than 1 year ago
Yup just like all the big prizefights are still at the Garden. Stuck in 1952 I guess.
JimMcCarthy1 More than 1 year ago
Yeah, Hollendorfer really is desperate to run him in the Travers so he can join the immortally hallowed company of Stay Thirsty, Afleet Express, Colonel John and Alpha in the pantheon of the last few years. Good one.
Leslie Keltner More than 1 year ago
CC/Coburn...had a legitimate point. Why are maiden winners running in Grade 1 stakes? Because the trainer is tops, or the owner wants to see them run in a classic race? All of the poor trainers, the "bread and butter" of the industry have to RUN under conditioned races. I'm about done betting on Graded races as long as they continue to allow any fool to run just because he has clout, same for the trainers. Churchill is in the tank right now so pick your poison. Me, I think that I'm going to hang, and bet with, the little guy. Let the dead bury the dead, let the rich buy their way in...win a GR 3, run in a GR2, win a GR2, run in a GR1. Otherwise, keep your horse where it belongs.
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
1,000,000 bonus if sb wins pacific classic and BC classic. That's why
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
I'll say one thing for the breed - it is getting faster insofar as sprints are concerned. I've never seen so many fast times in one meet. Obviously Belmont's track was honed to a fine edge on Saturday, but horses are routinely running very fast times on the track. Now,if only we could see them come home in faster fractions when going a distance.
Jay Van Horn More than 1 year ago
After reading your post I began pondering who in fact would run in the Breeder's Cup Classic if the race was to be run tomorrow..? So I compiled a list.. with morning line odds. 1.) California Chrome - 5-2 2.) Palace Malice - 3-1 3.) Will Take Charge - 9-2 4.) Mucho Macho Man - 9-2 5.) Tonalist - 6-1 6.) Game On Dude - 8-1 7.) Shared Belief - 8-1 8.) Lea - 12-1 9.) Revolutionary - 15-1 10.) Moonshine Mullin - 20-1 11.) Zivo - 20-1 12.) Wicked Strong - 20-1 13.) Commanding Curve 20-1 14.) Constitution 30-1
Peter Siipola More than 1 year ago
you really think CC would be favored over PM?
Vincent Spathanas More than 1 year ago
No.
Jay Van Horn More than 1 year ago
Depending how he preps but most likely, yes. He's the Derby winner...And I almost forgot.... #15.) Majestic Harbor 30-1
Vincent Spathanas More than 1 year ago
That's a decent ML but PM is the deserving favorite Jay...
Walter More than 1 year ago
Shared Belief would never be 8-1 if he continues to run well up to the BC Classic. He would prob be 5/2 or 3-1 at most.
redboy More than 1 year ago
I like the board with the exception of Wicked Strong and Constitution Personally I'd have at 12-1 Wicked Strong and Constitution at 20-1,but hell if you gave me Wicked Strong at 20-1 with this much pace in the race . Don't forget Drosselmeyer from 2010 that race was loaded with pace
Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
Hi Mike, if i am not mistaken both the Travers and Pacific Classic are run over the same weekend. It is crying shame SB'S connections have opted for the latter. They are both million dollar races and quite frankley tackling those older handicap horses on the west coast is no feather in his cap for year end honors. Come on you guys.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
He's a gelding. MONEY is his game. Honors are nice but ain't no breeding shed in his future. Why fly across the country to make people with no skin in his game happy? He's got the same amount to win in his backyard. And regardless of what you say, taking on older horses isn't as easy peasy as you think.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi Mike, Pretty much, spot-on observations. I'd just say that the remaining major battles for 3 yo honors seem to now be a California thing. Don't see CC or SB coming east any time soon. Thanks.
Guy John More than 1 year ago
CC is 3 yr old champ. Shared belief would have to win the JD or Haskell, Travers, 1 other G1 AND BC classic to even be in the discussion.
Evan More than 1 year ago
Agreed. I hate how people jump from ban wagon to ban wagon. Shared Belief is a really nice horse who would be competitive in any grade 1 race on synthetic or dirt from 6f to a mile and a quarter, no question about it. But the only quality horse he's beaten is Candy Boy who CC handled just as easy. However CC has proved that he can get a mile and quarter, he's proved he can win in big even huge fields (SB did win the cash call in a large field but that's only 1 race), and CC has proved that he can win on the big day in front of 100,000+ crowd. SB could end up being the better horse, who knows what will happen this year and next. But as of right now we don't have enough of a sample size to say that SB is as good as CC. If SB wins the Pacific Classic against older horses, then wins the Awesome Again and beats CC in the BC Classic under fair conditions ( neither one gets blocked or clips heals, etc.) then we can start the debate. To me its like saying a rookie that's having a sensation year, leading in points scored, assists, rebounds is better than Lebron James. Sorry, you have to prove yourself when it counts and consistently. The rookie might end up being better, but you don't get to even be compared until you accomplish feats that are even worth comparing to begin with.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
If Shared Belief won the Jim Dandy, Travers another G1 and the BC Classic there would be no discussion. He would be a near unanimous choice for both Champion 3yo male and Horse of the Year.
not impressed More than 1 year ago
But he's not. So he won't be.
Peter Siipola More than 1 year ago
and if Tonalist runs the table where would he figure?
Philip C More than 1 year ago
Tonalist is Horse of the Year if he runs the tables.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
Zivo's win was no surprise. On 5/31 between the Critical Eye and the Commentator 21 horses ran the same mile distance within an hour of one another. Zivo came home in 11.66 seconds for the final furlong while the next closest (among all 21 in both races) was Hot Stones at 12.35. You seldom see such a substantial difference among horses of any class. Fast closes can be dismissed if the final time is slow, but it was fast. As validation the top 2 finishers of the Critical Eye (La Verdad and Hot Stones) and 2nd place in the Commentator (Big Business) came back to run impressively. Zivo is a remarkable horse who was simply the best on Saturday. He was there to be found at a nice price by a handicapper willing to do the work.
KWGRID More than 1 year ago
Where's the Shared Belief race video? It's not on your video page.
KWGRID More than 1 year ago
Nevermind. I found the clip on the Calracing site. Shared Belief looks great. He really stretches out even when's loping along. Other horses running an extra 1/2 stride more just to keep up.