08/27/2014 12:10PM

Jerardi: Three-year-old leaders on collision course

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Shared Belief earned a 115 Beyer for his win in the Pacific Classic. His average Beyer Speed Figure in triple figures in his six wins.

“I miss Shared Belief.”

That was my opening line from a late-February column when it was becoming obvious that the 2-year-old champion was not going to make it back in time for the Kentucky Derby.

Last Sunday at Del Mar, Shared Belief showed everybody just what we missed in May and June. Even as I jumped on the California Chrome bandwagon when he dominated in the San Felipe Stakes a few days after I had written that column, I never forgot about Shared Belief.

A 2-year-old making just his third lifetime start and his first around two turns does not get a 106 Beyer Speed Figure without rare talent. That was Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity. It was not just how fast he was running but how he was doing it. It seemed effortless – speed to get position, acceleration on command, total domination in three 2-year-old starts, winning by a combined 20 1/2 lengths.

If Shared Belief could do that as a 2-year-old, what exactly was he capable of as a 3-year-old? Well, it took a while longer than expected, but we have our answer. As we head into September, Shared Belief is the fastest horse in America.

That 106 Beyer in December became a 115 Beyer in August. The domination continues, no matter the surface, the competition, or the distance. When the pace was really fast in Sunday’s Pacific Classic, Mike Smith just kept Shared Belief farther back than usual. And the colt still had the same giant run on the far turn and in the stretch.

His record is now 6 for 6, with a combined margin of victory of nearly 32 lengths. Shared Belief has hit triple digits on the Beyer scale three times. The common denominator was they were his two-turn races. The longer he goes, the faster he runs.

Exactly 11 years to the day after his unbeaten sire, Candy Ride, got his record to 6 for 6 by beating Medaglia d’Oro in the Pacific Classic and earning a 123 Beyer, Shared Belief came very close to replicating that performance. Candy Ride never ran again. Shared Belief runs on, the potential for a legendary career more obvious with every start.

Speculation is hazardous in this game because everything can change in an instant. Still, it is hard not to think about a Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic showdown between Shared Belief and California Chrome at Santa Anita with absolutely everything on the line.

While we are speculating, let’s imagine this scenario. California Chrome wins impressively in his comeback race Sept. 20 at Parx, running away from the field in the Pennsylvania Derby. So, in the Classic, you would have Chrome, with his California Cup Derby, San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, fourth in the Belmont Stakes, and Pennsylvania Derby, against Shared Belief, with his allowance win, the Los Alamitos Derby, and Pacific Classic (and a win in a prep race or no more wins if he just trains up to the race).

Unless Shared Belief comes east to challenge California Chrome in the Pennsylvania Derby, there would be no comparison between 2014 r é sum é s prior to a potential BC Classic meeting. California Chrome would come into the race with a huge lead for 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year honors. Let’s say Shared Belief wins the Classic. What would the voters do then?

Where Chrome finishes would be relevant, as he would still have the better overall r é sum é . Still, Shared Belief would have won their only meeting. That has to count. So does a great full year with Derby and Preakness wins. It would be a fascinating voting decision if we get to that point.

The Classic is two long months away. Much can still happen to change our perspective.

Let’s not forget that California Chrome could still improve. This is a colt who got a 108 Beyer in the San Felipe, a 107 in the Santa Anita Derby, and a 105 in the Preakness. If the Triple Crown did not fry him and the rest really helped him, perhaps California Chrome can come back and be as good or better than when he left.

Whatever happens, we are set up for a fall campaign that won’t be as defined as the Triple Crown but may end up telling us exactly what we want to know: Who’s got the best horse?