02/26/2014 1:48PM

Dick Jerardi: Shared Belief's absence leaves void among legit Kentucky Derby contenders

Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief ran impressively as a 2-year-old, but has yet to make his 3-year-old because of a foot issue.

I miss Shared Belief.

I miss the clarity he provided after his dominating wins in the Hollywood Prevue and CashCall Futurity.

I miss the opportunity to see a potential superstar on the track in the early Kentucky Derby prep races.

Not sure if Shared Belief will have enough time to make the Derby. Foot issues are like no other issues. They linger.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

No doubt, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will only take the horse to Churchill Downs if he is convinced the horse is ready to run back to his 2-year-old form and perhaps beyond it. We are into March on Saturday which means we are just nine weeks to the Derby.

Every time I watch another of the prep races and watch another horse win that I doubt can win the Derby, I miss Shared Belief even more.
And every time I watch a horse that Shared Belief buried last year win a significant prep race, I long for the 2-year-old champion.

Consider Kobe’s Back, nearly eight lengths back of Shared Belief in the Hollywood Prevue. Kobe’s Back won the San Vicente by 5 1/4 lengths and got a 95 Beyer.

Consider Candy Boy, second by nearly six lengths to Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity. The horse won the Robert Lewis and got a 96 Beyer.
Consider Tamarando, third in the CashCall Futurity. He won the El Camino Real Derby and got a 91.

If Shared Belief’s talent was not clear last year, it is really clear in 2014. The horses he beat keep beating all the other horses.
So, we wait. And hope.

Meanwhile, I have no clue about the rest of these horses. They all look the same to me.

Just when you think maybe Vicar’s in Trouble is the one, the colt looms up like the winner in the Risen Star and then fades through the stretch. Just when you see Top Billing make the kind of move that has to blow away dueling front-runners in the Fountain of Youth, the speed horses lose no ground late and Top Billing finishes third on a track where passing was illegal.

Maybe, Wildcat Red, who got a 101 Beyer in his Fountain of Youth win, is going to be this year’s Shackleford, the Florida speedball who keeps going no matter the distance. I wouldn’t bet on it at the moment, but I guess it’s possible.

Intense Holiday got a 97 when he won the Risen Star, the Best Beyer of his career by 13 points. So it is certainly possible that he is the classic improving horse who still has another forward move that we may see in the Louisiana Derby or the Kentucky Derby itself.

I just felt like I knew what I was getting with Shared Belief, my favorite kind of horse, one with speed to get position and the acceleration on command who wins big races like the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Maybe not all three in one year (has that ever happened?), but certainly one or more. At the moment, Shared Belief has zero Derby points.

Meanwhile, I am searching for another Derby horse in case my horse does not make it to Churchill Downs. And I am getting nowhere.
Thankfully, we still have the Gotham, Tampa Bay Derby, San Felipe, Rebel, Spiral, Sunland Derby, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, and Blue Grass to make sense of this moment’s chaos.

By this time last year, I knew Louisville was going to win the NCAA championship. It was just so clear. Final Four experience. Best players. Best coach. Hot at the right time. Six games. Six wins. Easy.

Derby. Rarely easy.

Where is the clarity of Big Brown? Give me a 2014 version of Smarty Jones or Barbaro.

By this time last year, I had no clue about the Derby. It is quite comforting to be back in such familiar territory.

By the time they ran the 2013 Derby, everybody I knew with a good opinion liked Orb. Naturally, I did not pick Orb.

I had a bad opinion. No need to review how bad.

At the moment, I have no opinion, other than I really miss Shared Belief.