01/08/2014 12:00AM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Shared Belief

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photo by: Shigeki Kikkawa

As he glanced at the board following the running of the fifth race at Golden Gate Fields on Oct. 19, track announcer Michael Wrona was taken aback by the fact that the debuting 2-year-old he had just called to victory had run six furlongs in 1:09.53.

“I think we’ve seen the unveiling of a very promising youngster,” Wrona said.

What Wrona didn’t know – what nobody paying attention to Golden Gate that sun-splashed afternoon could have possibly known – was that they might have seen the unveiling of a champion.

Shared Belief not only impressed that October afternoon but in subsequent stakes victories in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue and Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, both at Betfair Hollywood Park. His combined margin of victory in those three starts was 20 1/2 lengths, impressive enough to earn a spot as a finalist for the Eclipse Award in the 2-year-old male division.

Were he to win the award, Shared Belief would become just the fourth horse who didn’t compete in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to be crowned 2-year-old champion in the 30-year Breeders’ Cup era. The other three were Declan’s Moon (2004), Maria’s Mon (1995), and Forty Niner (1987). Declan’s Moon, like Shared Belief, went unbeaten as a 2-year-old, including victories in the Prevue and Futurity.

Wrona wasn’t the only one impressed by Shared Belief’s debut. Jerry Hollendorfer, the Hall of Fame trainer, had the first-time starter Time Jumper, who went off favored in that Oct. 19 race.

“When I looked at the Form, I didn’t think there were any horses that could beat Time Jumper,” said Hollendorfer, whose horse finished second, beaten seven lengths.

Hollendorfer trains for Marty and Pam Wygod, who bred and owned Shared Belief and had the horse with trainer Jedd Josephson for his debut. Wygod told Hollendorfer he was shipping Shared Belief to Hollendorfer’s barn at Hollywood Park but also mentioned that he was going to sell the gelding. Hollendorfer asked if he could have the opportunity to buy him, and with the assistance of bloodstock agent Alex Solis Jr., a deal was consummated.

The horse was purchased by Hollendorfer, Jim Rome, the California-based national sports-talk personality, Kevin Nish, and George Todaro. Solis and his business partner, Jason Litt, also retained a small interest.

Hollendorfer, with an eye toward the CashCall Futurity, opted to run Shared Belief back in three weeks in the Prevue, a seven-furlong race. Shared Belief ran his final three furlongs in 34.11 seconds in drawing off to a 7 3/4-length victory.

“I wasn’t crazy about running him back in 21 days, but Jerry said, ‘I want to do this,’ ” Solis said. “ ‘Jerry, you’re the trainer; you’re a Hall of Famer for a reason. Go ahead.’ He ran wild. I got to give all the credit to Jerry on that one.”

By running in the Prevue on Nov. 10, that gave Shared Belief five weeks to the CashCall Futurity, the final Grade 1 to be run at historic Hollywood Park. In the field of 12, Shared Belief stalked the pace, initially from second, then third when Candy Boy made an early move down the backside. By the quarter pole, Shared Belief was back in second, and by the three-sixteenths pole, he was in front and drawing clear to an emphatic victory. His 106 Beyer Speed Figure was the highest earned by a 2-year-old in 2013.

“I was happy to see my horse sit and not do something unusual until the rider asked him,” Hollendorfer said. “That showed Shared Belief is a horse that you can rate.”

Entering 2014, Shared Belief will be rated highly among those looking ahead to the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

Shared Belief will winter at Santa Anita and use that track’s series of races to attempt to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.