12/18/2013 12:23PM

Dick Jerardi: Shared Belief stands out in several ways

Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief could provide trainer Jerry Hollendorfer with his best shot to win a Triple Crown race for the first time in 2014.

We attend sporting events because we never know for sure what we might be about to witness. We watch stakes races for 2-year-olds because we never know when we might be about to see something very special. In the space of three hours last Saturday afternoon and evening, I saw a hoops/horses exacta that I won’t soon forget.

It was 90 minutes or so after I watched Princeton make up an 18-point deficit in the last 6 1/2 minutes to catch and then beat Penn State in a wild overtime basketball game played in snowy State College, Pa., at old Rec Hall that I was stopped by a man as I was leaving the bar/restaurant at the nearby Nittany Lion Inn.

He did not want to know about the basketball game. He wanted to know the identity of my 2014 Kentucky Derby horse.

I was just about to say I was undecided before I double-checked the name of an unbeaten horse who was going to run at Betfair Hollywood Park within the next 90 minutes. Shared Belief, I told him, had been very impressive in each of his two starts and had a big Beyer Speed Figure edge going into the CashCall Futurity. If Shared Belief wins big again, I told the man, he could be my horse.

The road out of town was impassible, so I settled in to watch some more hoops on television and one horse race on my laptop.

Shared Belief showed excellent early speed in his races, both sprints, so he certainly figured to be close in his first start around two turns. He broke perfectly and quickly established excellent early position just off an early speed horse who had no chance to last. When Candy Boy made a giant middle move on the backstretch, I wasn’t really paying attention to him. I was watching Shared Belief and Corey Nakatani. The horse was as relaxed as the jockey when Candy Boy went by.

Nakatani did not seem at all concerned with the movement outside him. He apparently knew what he had and was waiting until later to show it.

Candy Boy had the lead on the far turn, but I was still watching Shared Belief. It was obvious Shared Belief was going to win and probably by a lot. The horse was getting closer without being asked. When Nakatani gave the signal at the head of the stretch, Shared Belief accelerated like the race had just started.

My old friend Vic Stauffer called the horse a “superstar.” I am not going there, but the Hollywood Park announcer might be right. This was really impressive.

Shared Belief won by 5 3/4 lengths and got a 106 Beyer. He also got my vote for 2-year-old champion after winning all three of his stars by a combined 20 1/2 lengths and getting Beyers of 84, 92, and 106.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has won 6,544 races, third all time. He has not won a Triple Crown race, mostly because he has had very few good chances. Shared Belief gives him a very good chance.

I like everything about this horse. He has positional speed. He rates like a smart horse. He runs fast.

I watched Shared Belief’s first race at Golden Gate Fields to see what Hollendorfer might have seen when he put together the deal to buy the horse after that Oct. 19 debut. Shared Belief was very good that day, too, and every bit as good in the Hollywood Prevue.

I checked the horse’s pedigree to see if there are any clues for later. Being by Candy Ride certainly can’t hurt. The dam, Common Hope, a daughter of legendary sire Storm Cat, does not have much of a race record, but clearly is from a strong family.

Common Hope raced five times in the early 2000s for trainer Julio Canani with one win, a maiden race at Del Mar. She has seven other foals, the first five by Bertrando, one by Maria’s Mon, and one by Unbridled’s Song. The two best are Little Miss Holly and Common Trust. Little Miss Holly, by Maria’s Mon, started 12 times with 3 wins, 2 seconds, 3 thirds, and earnings of $217,430. Common Trust, by Bertrando, started 42 times with 7 wins, 12 seconds, 6 thirds, and earnings of $195,622. All told, Common Hope’s first seven foals started 114 times, with 21 wins and $746,912.

Shared Belief has earned $451,200 in his three starts. Apparently, Candy Ride and Hollendorfer have made the difference. Candy Ride never lost in six starts and has become a solid sire. Hollendorfer is simply one of the best trainers that ever lived. Nakatani is certainly a big-race rider.

I am making no pronouncements other than I like everything about Shared Belief so far. I can’t wait for 2014 to see if the horse can keep that form and perhaps even improve on it.