There was everything to love about Shared Belief, and everything to love about how Shared Belief’s connections campaigned him.
His career hit bumps in the road, but his connections never rushed him through. Shared Belief was a gelding, after all, and they paid that potential the utmost respect. Every horse (no matter their reproductive status) would ideally be left to mature, grow into themselves, and heal in their own time. Jerry Hollendorfer, Jungle Racing, and company always seemed to take this to heart.
They did what they could to keep their fast little gelding as sound as they could for as long as they could — and Shared Belief kept rewarding their patience.
They got him at two, privately, after an authoritative first-out maiden win at Golden Gate. They had to figure Shared Belief would be good, though no one could have imagined just how good.
He posted an impressive victory in the Hollywood Prevue (GIII), and then another one in the CashCall Futurity (GI). As the only Grade I winning male of his class to also be a multiple graded stakes winner, he posted a record strong enough to win the Eclipse for Champion Two Year Old Male, even without rushing to Santa Anita for Halloween weekend.
Foot issues delayed his return at three. Again, no one rushed him. As California Chrome made his way down the Derby trail, Shard Belief missed the marquee three-year-old races. He returned in an allowance against older on Memorial Day weekend, after Chrome had already annexed the Derby and the Preakness. Shared Belief romped.
It quickly became clear that the patience with bringing him back paid off. He came back fit, healthy, and the monster so many people thought he was.
Shared Belief just kept winning. He beat his own age group in the Los Alamitos Derby. He beat older in the Pacific Classic, his first try at ten furlongs. He overcame an aggressively mile-wide trip to win the Awesome Again.
His undefeated streak may have been snapped in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but he had a tough trip, and he kept fighting to be fourth behind three very good horses.
Shared Belief capped his three-year-old season with an impressive win in the Malibu. Though he won by just a neck, he proved his gameness and his versatility. Of all his races, how can you not keep going back to this one? How often do you see a router like Shared Belief, a Grade I winner at the Classic distance, shorten up to seven furlongs and prevail over actual sprinters like Conquest Two Step and Chitu?
Shared Belief kept a good thing going into his four-year-old year. A showdown between him and California Chrome finally happened in the San Antonio. California Chrome tried. Shared Belief was just too good. He stretched out again to a mile and a quarter for the Big ‘Cap, and could not have proven his class more emphatically.
That would be his last win. He ran in the Charles Town Classic next. In another example of his connections acting carefully on his behalf, Mike Smith pulled him up when he felt like he was not moving quite like himself.
He had a hairline fracture in his pelvis, but Smith’s care meant he was going to be okay. Just as when he had his foot injury, Shared Belief got time. He spent the ensuing months resting, rehabilitating…the racing world missed him, but time meant hope that he would return as the Shared Belief we knew and loved.
He returned to Golden Gate for training early last month. I was only imaging that it would turn out well, given the calculating, even reverent manner in which his connections managed his career.
After today, we’ll never know how that was going to work out.
Though Shared Belief had so much less time on the track than anyone could have ever imagined, the way his connections managed him helped ensure that he made the best of his racing days. Call him what you will: a freak, a monster, a fast, tough racehorse. He was all of those things. His people knew it — and respected both their horse and his abilities.