03/08/2015 11:04AM

Watchmaker: Shared Belief turns in another distinguished performance

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When a horse catches a field over which he owns a massive edge, he is supposed to look good when he wins. Even though an amazing 12 lined up to face him, Shared Belief absolutely towered over his field in the Santa Anita Handicap in ways that words fall short of expressing, and he was supposed to crush that group. But what distinguished Shared Belief’s performance Saturday was the way he did what he was supposed to do.

I mean, the Big Cap is a 10-furlong race. Did Shared Belief run much more than an eighth of a mile in it, if even that? He just loped up to the leader late on the far turn, put the race completely away without drawing a deep breath between upper stretch and before the eighth pole, and then was taken well in hand. Shared Belief was supped to throttle that crew, but he did so while hardly moving a muscle. When he woke up this morning, I wonder if he even knew he ran yesterday.

And that right there should give you a greater appreciation for California Chrome. Even if he was only prepping for the Dubai World Cup, California Chrome still was only second best to Shared Belief in last month’s San Antonio. But California Chrome at least made Shared Belief work for it. At this moment, you can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of horses capable of making Shared Belief run.

I’m sure now, given how uncompetitive the Big Cap was, the chorus for Shared Belief to race outside of California for the first time will only grow louder. Right now, it looks like the people will get what they want: Both the Oaklawn Handicap and the Metropolitan Mile are on Shared Belief's agenda. Still, the two main arguments offered on why Shared Belief should ship out of his home state really don’t hold water.

Those who say Shared Belief hasn’t shipped yet are overlooking the fact that while he has not left California, he has won over five very different tracks in that state – Golden Gate, Betfair Hollywood, Los Alamitos Race Course, Del Mar, and Santa Anita. California is a big state. The distance Shared Belief covered from Golden Gate to Del Mar covers the distance from Belmont Park to Laurel and all the tracks in between. Twice.

And there are those who argue that Shared Belief might be another Lava Man, who was great in California but was unable to reproduce his best form elsewhere. We don’t know if that’s true. No one has any idea whatsoever. What we do know is that Shared Belief is a totally different individual, and it is unfair to paint him with such a broad brush.

Other Saturday notes

** If Shared Belief was the star of the day, and the best horse in America most certainly was, then Dortmund was the second star.

After his very demanding effort prevailing in a very strong running of last month’s Robert Lewis and in light of the fact that he originally wasn’t supposed to race again until next month’s Santa Anita Derby, I expected Dortmund to show some sort of form regression in the San Felipe. Nothing of the sort happened. Dortmund absolutely toyed with his San Felipe field, proving far better than the margins between him and the runner-up Prospect Park and third-place finisher Bolo (who also are two fine colts) would suggest. I know we’re going to see the return of 2-year-old champion American Pharoah this Saturday in the Rebel, and I’m excited for that. But Dortmund, for my money, is the best 3-year-old we’ve seen so far this year. And it’s not close.

** And that includes Carpe Diem, although he did everything right dominating the Tampa Bay Derby in a 3-year-old bow he also can build on. Carpe Diem is an interesting individual who has a lot of dimension to him. Despite being by Giant’s Causeway, he was good enough to win his debut going 5 1/2 furlongs last summer at Saratoga, then was good enough to stretch all the way out to 8 1/2 furlongs in his next start to dominate the Breeders’ Futurity. That Carpe Diem is this good this early speaks volumes because he’s supposed to get better with maturity and as the distances get longer.

** I was most impressed by Honor Code’s victory in the Gulfstream Park Handicap because deep, deep closers like him just don’t have much success on Gulfstream’s main track. Shug McGaughey said right after the race on the track feed that he was looking forward to running Honor Code in longer races in New York. I think Honor Code will really shine in that arena. And that should answer the question of what Honor Code will be focusing on, as there are some who suggest he might be best as a one-turn closer. For what it’s worth, McGaughey has insisted repeatedly for well over a year now that Honor Code is a distance horse. I’ll go with what he says.

There seems to be a lot of love for Private Zone’s close second to Honor Code because he was under pressure setting the pace most of the way. Well, Private Zone did run well, and he’s a cool horse. However, Private Zone was completely loose through a first quarter Saturday in 23.51 seconds, which was slow even by the standards of one-mile main-track races at Gulfstream and incredibly slow for the class of horse involved.

** The initial reaction was to be disappointed in Daredevil’s second in the Swale because the winner of the Champagne was supposed to be just plain better than his field. But in actuality, Daredevil ran okay, even if his Derby prospects (such as they were; who knows how far he really wants to go) took a bruising. Daredevil just ran into a powerhouse performance from Ready for Rye, who had shown plenty of potential of his own in good efforts in his first three starts against highly regarded company.

** El Kabeir got the job done in the Gotham. I’d love to own him. But of the prominent Derby preps run so far this year, the Gotham was one of the weakest and strangest run.

** Salutos Amigos, on the other hand, was sensational winning again in the Tom Fool. Yeah, Salutos Amigos is racking up the wins on Aqueduct’s inner track against whoever can be coaxed into the gate with him. It doesn’t matter. There isn’t an active (key word there being active) sprinter who is better than Salutos Amigos right now, especially after Conquest Two Step lost in a scratch-weakened San Carlos.

** Easy inside trip or not, Stephanie’s Kitten was the definition of class in her strong score in the Hillsborough. And the runner-up Ball Dancing was pretty darn good, too. Surprise! Both are trained by Chad Brown.

** Good 2015 bows from both Ring Weekend and Summer Front in their one-two finishes in the Kilroe Mile. But you know the going in the turf divisions, both male and female, will get only much tougher as the year goes on.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Met Mile is a sick race. It's better than a BC or TC race.
Classhndicapper More than 1 year ago
The one question mark I have about Dortmund being the best 3yo is that everything I've read coming out of the Baffert camp has hinted that he believes American Pharoah is an absolute monster and the better of the two horses. I don't know if they've ever worked together, but you would think he has a pretty good idea where they both are at this stage.
Capo Capo More than 1 year ago
Until the preps get out of the range where the milers can still win, we will see other horses jump to the front. Horses who need more distance, and don't get it in these Mile, and 8.5f preps. Horses like Ami's Flatter, Keen ice, et al need more distance.
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
HOW ABOUT KENTUCKIAN????? MIGHT BE TOO SOON, BUT HE IS MORE IMPRESSIVE THAN ANY THREE YEAR OLD THIS YEAR 1ST LIFETIME START 1:08.4, 3/5S OFF GOLDEN GATE TRACK RECORD, AND TRAINED BY THE KING, GALLOPED OUT LIKE HE WANTS A LOT MORE GROUND IMHO
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
Exciting stuff Jim but not the kind of stuff that KDs are based on. Maybe he'll stretch out later in the year and I think the odds of him making it to the gate on the 1st Saturday in May are very poor. But he could run in a 7 furlong affair on the undercard!
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Looked great but the Peter Pan would be a reach if he progresses.And as impressive as he was time and visually,what was behind him. Anxious to see an allowance at Santa Anita or allowance against older at GGF before i'm ready to annoint him.
Govinda Mun More than 1 year ago
Shared Belief was the best horse in the BC, and should have been HOY - if it wasn't for that dirty riding from the gate. Chrome flew away so that he doesn't have to face the true champion.
Mel More than 1 year ago
Get over it!!!!!!
Bob More than 1 year ago
Not about facing horses it's about making purses $$$.
Michael Infurna More than 1 year ago
Dortmund, Upstart, Carpe Diem and maybe American Pharoah are leaps and bounds the best 3 yos out there. They are fast horses who are beating inferior horses impressively. Upstart has beaten Frosted easily twice this year and Bluegrass Singer, Carpe Diem beat a suspect bunch especially when Kiarans horse didn't run. Dortmund stole his race Saturday with a 47.0 half and there was no one behind him. American Pharoah could be a freak but who knows if he can stay sound or run a 1 1/4?? Most horses can work fast.. There are a lot of 2nd tier horses including 4-5 Pletcher horses, El Kabier, Frosted and Mike Makers horse from FGs. The rest are just pipe dreams!!
Capo Capo More than 1 year ago
Bolo? The horse ran a cracker. He had every reason to pack it in and finish up the track, but ran on gamely.
Michael Infurna More than 1 year ago
His numbers indicate he is 3-4 lengths better on the turf.
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
Hey Capo - I 100% agree. Bolo missed training time during the rain in SoCal and he was making his first start on dirt off a more than 2 month layoff. Obviously not as tight as he could be he ran a brilliant race and could easily improve off that effort. I am not saying he is better than Dortmund and I do think he still has upside.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
I really believe In and respect (not cheapen)California Chrome.Winning the Holy Grail of horseracing is on the bucketlist of 99% of every american horseman.To make to the race ,Deal with the stress of shipping ,CROWD,and the large field takes a special horse.And to keep coming back with solid efforts.He is the real deal.I hear the being a short horse excuse about his defeat in the San Antonio.I was fortunate enough to be at Del Mar to see his visually impressive exiting win.Ive also watch Shared Belief in many of his finest moments and even his CHIPS car crash episode at the BC Classic.Every once in a while something special comes along.I think we are seeing the Barry Bonds of horseracing.This guy lowers his head ,levels out,poetry in motion.Let us share the belief this geldings ride lasts a good while longer.hopefully Good Luck to California Chrome in the desert.I'll be rooting for him.
robert NEVEU More than 1 year ago
Honor code is a well bred horse trained by a highly regarded trainer, though I wonder how well he would have closed had not valid done the dirty work pressing the pace.
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
I think Dortmund is ultra impressive. His last two races before Saturday were extremely competitive affairs - he won on the line 3 back, dueled was passed and came back on two back and yesterday he rated kindly on the lead. He's a big strapping horse, he has no desire to lose and he is improving with every start. Next out if the pace is hot watch him sit a cool third and power home. He's already won at CD. If all things go smoothly, by the time they load in at the Derby you'll be lucky to get 5-1.
Jim Fields More than 1 year ago
THE KING AND THE CHAMP ARE GOING EAST, AND THEY DON'T NEED TO, BUT THEY ARE. YOU BETTER REACH REALLY DEEP TO FIND SOME OF THOSE EASTERN STARS TO RUN AGAINST HIM, AND I WOULDN'T BE SURPRISED THAT MORENO CATCHES THE SAME FLIGHT, AND PROBABLY BACK FOR THE PACIFIC CLASSIC AND BAYERN AND CALIFORNIA CHROME, AND NOBODY WILL WANT TO RUN AGAINST HIM IN THE BCC, BUT THEY WILL BECAUSE SECOND PAYS TOO MUCH TO NOT RUN LAST YEARS BCC WAS A SHAME AND MY FEELING IS THAT AFTER EVERYTHING HAPPENED, MIKE SHUT SB DOWN AND JUST GALLOPED AROUND. IMHO
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
Jim when you write in all caps it makes it seem like you're yelling at us. Try the decaf?