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.
Hawthorne has its marquee spring race day on Saturday with the Illinois Derby (GIII) and the Sixty Sails (GIII), and my analysis of these races will come in this weekend’s Chicago Railbird.
However, another track also has its big race day on Saturday. If the Charles Town Classic (GII) was enough to get Shared Belief to race outside California for the first time, it is enough for me to turn my Chicago-focused eyes outward to take a look at the race.
Big ‘Cap Weekend is a big weekend all over the country, and Picks and Ponderings has stakes previews from coast to coast.
Santa Anita has five stakes on the card; between me and Paul Mazur, we preview them all. I take a look at the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (GI), the San Felipe Stakes (GII), and the China Doll Stakes; Paul delves into the Santa Anita Handicap (GI) and the San Carlos Stakes (GII).
Rematches were the theme of the day in Santa Anita’s stakes races. In the Robert B. Lewis (GIII), Dortmund and Firing Line returned from their tight 1-2 positions in the Los Alamitos Futurity (GI). Later in the San Marcos (GII), Dynamic Sky got a chance to rebound from a troubled trip last out and get another crack at Finnegans Wake. Finally, in the San Antonio (GII), California Chrome and Shared Belief clashed again after finishing 3-4 behind Bayern in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI).
As Marvin Lee Aday so famously mused: two out of three ain’t bad.
Friday marks the first day of the new meet at Santa Anita. The card contains three well-subscribed graded stakes races: the Malibu (GI), the La Brea (GI), and the Mathis Brothers Mile (GII). All three provide three-year-olds with one more chance to run against three-year-olds only before they turn four, and must navigate the older horse division. All three races drew large, deep fields consisting of a mix of existing stars (Shared Belief! Taris! Heart to Heart! That gorgeous heart on Heart to Heart’s face, which itself is both literally and figuratively a star!) and less heralded runners who are still trying to make names for themselves in tougher company.
With all apologies to the Haiku Handicapper, this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic was sufficiently dramatic to require a Sonnet Recapper. As the Sonnet Recapper does not actually exist, Blinkers Off makes its attempt.
the gates flew open, Bayern flew inside
momentum’s law impacted the stampede
through Shared Belief, Moreno then denied
the only chance presented one-way speed
then Shared Belief was slowed a bit by Toast
as Bayern made it where he liked to be
and kept his nose in front at every post
a light came on: a stewards’ inquiry
while all the world awaited final word
with riders, judges both they did consult
the stewards then claimed that it had occurred
in such a stage impactless on result
no matter what they said or didn’t say
we’re left to wonder who was best that day
I have talked quite a bit about Shared Belief since Blinkers Off began back in January. I maintained that he should beat New Year’s Day out for Champion Two-Year-Old Male, and I drafted him to my fantasy stable. It was a winter of foot problems, scheduled workouts, and missed workouts; most of my weekly updates until I finally waived him were nice ways of saying “we don’t know when he is going to race again.”
I was glad his connections skipped out on the early season, since taking a careful approach to returning to training serves the horse far better than trying to rush him. This holds true for any horse, but rings with particular poignancy for a gelding. There is no chance that Shared Belief will be yanked off the track as a three-year-old or a four-year-old to preserve his stud value. Geldings who stay sound and race for years become fan favourites: just think of Wise Dan, Ben’s Cat, Cirrus des Aigles. They come back year after year, win races, and give fans like us someone to cheer for over a long period of time. We don’t know yet if Shared Belief will have that sort of longevity, but he would not have a chance for it if his connections rushed him back to the track and compromised his soundness.
Still, it was hard not to anxiously await his return to the track after what he did last year. After breaking his maiden at Golden Gate, he steamrolled both the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (GIII) and the CashCall Futurity (GI). The field in the Prevue included eventual graded stakes winner Kobe’s Back. The field in the CashCall included not only Kobe’s Back, but other graded stakes winners Candy Boy, Tamarando, and Bond Holder. When the hooves hit the track, however, none of them could mount a challenge to Shared Belief. After those three wins last year, he looked like he could be something special.
Despite gossip that he might come back in some lofty race like the Woody Stephens, Jerry Hollendorfer returned him to the track today in a somewhat more modest place: a six-furlong open allowance over the Golden Gate Tapeta surface. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer ran him there because he didn’t want to ship, and made the valid point that a race can always be tough if it is the first one back from a six-month layoff. Shared Belief wasn’t facing fellow divisional champion horses, but he was facing older company for the first time. He was the only three-year-old in the starting gate. He was the only horse who hadn’t started yet this year; all four others in the race were in their sixth start of 2014. It was a solid allowance field despite its small size, with one stakes winner and two stakes-placed horses in the field.
Any other day, it would have been a solid enough race at Golden Gate, but today it was something more. It was the return of a champion. It was our first chance to address the question of whether Shared Belief may be the same special racehorse he was last year.
Today, Shared Belief proved that dream is still alive.
Early on, he got the rail and the lead. Shared Belief had never been one to set the early fractions, but no one else seems to want to do it today. The lead just fell to him, though Jockey Russell Baze didn’t ask him for run that early. He set some slow fractions, at least for the early stages of an allowance level sprint: the quarter in 23.32, the half in 46.46. No one even tried to challenge him until the far turn, though, so it made no sense to expend unnecessary energy by asking him for more run.
Finally, with about a quarter of a mile remaining, Ourwestcoastghost tried to make a run at him. Stalking a length or so off through most of it, he got to within a head of Shared Belief. It was no matter. Baze hardly had to move. Shared Belief kicked right into his next gear, and almost immediately opened up a length, then two… The other jockeys urged their mounts, but by the time the field turned for home, the fight between Ourwestcoastghost and Moonshine Bay was clearly for second. Any rust that Shared Belief may had gathered over the last six months was off, and he was running long and strong. He pulled away while still under a hold. By the time the field hit the wire, Shared Belief was all alone, 4 1/4 lengths in front. Ourwestcoastghost, after stalking the winner for the first half-mile, just barely had enough to stave off Moonshine Bay for second. Ridden hard, they couldn’t find enough to counter what Shared Belief had in hand.
Next time out, Shared Belief will almost certainly face tougher company. Today proved that despite any setbacks through the winter, Shared Belief can still run. He is still comfortable on the track, and still has the desire to win.
Shared Belief, you are a special horse, and you are ready for your next challenge. Welcome back. We missed you.
We had a claiming day this Thursday, and I had to get busy, since so many of my horses were off the Derby or Oaks trails. I had Ride On Curlin and General a Rod who are in the Derby starting gate, and She’s a Tiger pointing toward the Eight Belles, but that was it as far as horses of mine who were clearly pointing toward races that could advance my standing. I had to get my hands on at least a few horses who would be in some more points races, since my current point total in the league is nothing if not middling. Fortunately, I had the most money left out of anyone: $468 out of the $500 in Monopoly money that we got at the beginning of the season for claims.
Things were a little slow for my stable in the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league, but it’s the calm before the storm. The big Derby and Oaks preps have wound down, and everyone is bearing down for the Derby and the Oaks in a week and a half. Still, big things are afoot, and the April claiming date is this Thursday. So, here’s one last look at how my stable stands, before a probable personnel (horsonnel?) shake-up later this week.
We are now 12 weeks into the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy horse racing league, and the pictures for the Derby and the Oaks are getting clearer and clearer. There are still a few points available in the Lexington Stakes this Saturday at Keeneland, though so far it does not sound like any of the horses on the Kentucky Derby bubble within ten points of Cairo Prince’s 24 will be running in it. Even if they did, it would not change whether any of the horses in my stable were in or out of the Derby starting gate.
That said, let’s dive in and see how my horses are doing. There is a hodgepodge of good news, bad news, and confusing news.
Ride On Curlin – Ride On Curlin needed to finish at least fourth in the Arkansas Derby to keep his Derby dreams realistically alive, and this consistent Curlin baby did not disappoint. Jockey Jon Court kept him off the pace set by Bayern and Thundergram — exactly what I was hoping to see. He made a wide move to get around the leaders and Tapiture, the same time as Danza was coming through on the inside. He couldn’t catch Danza (who finished 4 3/4 lengths in front), but he came down the middle of the track and caught everyone else to claim second. This put him at 55 points — more than good enough to punch his ticket to Kentucky! In fact, he has already shipped to Kentucky, and will get some works over the Churchill track. However, there is one slightly less exciting bit of news to go along with this. Today, trainer Billy Gowan announced that Calvin Borel was getting the mount on Ride On Curlin. It’s logical in a sense, since Borel has ridden him in five of his nine career starts, including both career wins. However, after the nice ride Jon Court gave him in Hot Springs, it’s a disappointment that he will not maintain the mount in Louisville.
Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan needed at least a third place finish to advance on the road to the Kentucky Derby, but sadly, it did not happen for him. He settled in the rear early, as he normally does, and tried to make a run coming into the stretch. He improved his position approaching the stretch, passing Commissioner as well as the tiring Thundergram and Strong Mandate. He couldn’t sustain his run, though, and finished fifth beaten 10 1/4 lengths. There is no clear indication about where (if anywhere) he is heading next, but it will not be the Kentucky Derby.
General a Rod – General a Rod did not race last weekend. General a Rod did not hit the worktab last week. However, there is still news about him, and it’s the best news possible: he is officially Derby bound! He sits at 40 points, seventeenth in the standings. Even if the horses immediately below him were to actually run in the Lexington Stakes and claim points, he is still a mathematical lock for the starting gate.
Please Explain – The news about Conquest Titan was disappointing. The news about Please Explain was even more disappointing. Last week, Please Explain was disqualified from third place in the Honeybee, and her trainer Tom Proctor fined $1,000 for a medication positive. The medication involved was methylprednisolone, a synthesized adrenal steroid. This information posted by Robert Yates, the horse racing reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is all I know. There seems to be a dearth of information about this, which is distressing since it involves a drug violation in a significant Oaks prep. I feel awful for Please Explain, I’m disappointed in the barn, and I hope my further efforts to find information about this don’t come up empty.
Stopchargingmaria – Stopchargingmaria ended the Oaks prep season with 22 points, after her fourth place finish in the Fantasy Stakes. This would not be enough to qualify her outright for the Oaks, but would place her in eighteenth place. Since fourteen horses get into the Oaks gate, only four ahead of her would have to scratch (or decide they were not pointing for the Oaks) for her not to get in. However, she is stricken through in the official Oaks standings list. This came as a surprise, as I had not seen any announcements or even scuttlebutt that she was being taken off the Oaks trail, officially. Hopefully, information will come out soon as to why she is off the list, and where (if anywhere) she is pointing next.
She’s a Tiger – On April 10, She’s a Tiger fired a bullet at Santa Anita, working six furlongs in 1:13.20 in the Santa Anita dirt. There hasn’t been any news over the last week to contradict previous reports that she is pointing toward the Eight Belles Stakes (GIII), which is on the Kentucky Oaks undercard this year.
Tamarando – On April 12, Tamarando returned to the worktab. He’s still at Santa Anita, and he worked five furlongs in 1:01.80. However, this was on dirt. His last workout, on April 6, was on turf. This leaves me a bit confused. The Derby is almost certainly out, since his twelve points put him thirty-first on the list, and I doubt Hollendorfer will be shipping him to Churchill in case of an opening like Giant Finish had last year. There’s no good word on where he is heading next, and the workout pattern is puzzling.
Shared Belief – Last Friday, Jerry Hollendorfer said that Shared Belief will work at Golden Gate Fields on Tuesday, for the first time since January 3rd. He also stated that a comeback race in June or July was a possible time frame. However, this is not the first time that Hollendorfer has said Shared Belief would work, so I am not holding my breath until I actually see him on the worktab. I’m looking forward to his return — Shared Belief was my #1 draft pick for a reason. His two-year-old season was dazzling, and I just want to see him running again if he is sound.
At this point, there is a lot to think about between now and April 24, which is the next claiming date. I can guarantee there will be claiming attempts, though their structure will of course depend on what information I can glean between now and then about who is pointed where, and how I can get the best Derby-month bang for my buck.
Week 11 of the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league has come and gone, and it was a tough one on the distaff side for Iron Bard Stable, with two horses — and two off-the-board finishes. Despite there being six league points races this past Saturday, they were the only two horses in my stable running, and my stable’s status has plummeted as a result.
Things are looking a bit more promising at the moment on the colts’ side, with a couple of promising works leading to the Arkansas Derby. No matter what, I’m going to have a lot to think about in a couple of weeks, come the April claiming day. It’ll be the last claim before the Kentucky Oaks, the Kentucky Derby, the Black Eyed Susan, and the Preakness, so I’ll have to use my bankroll to score some late-emerging stars if I’m to have any shot at sniping my competition.
Here’s how my stable is doing as of this week:
Please Explain – The Fantasy was not what I was hoping to see from Please Explain, simple as that. She started far back early, and she never made up much. She was eighth of eight most of it, and only managed to overtake the fading, straggling Haveyougoneaway to finish seventh. There was no clear excuse for this, especially since she hadn’t shipped out for the race or even raced all that recently. I am not sure whether she needs a new jockey or easier company. Either way, she failed to get any much-needed points, and my hopes of seeing her there come Oaks day are pretty well dashed. I haven’t given up on her, since maybe she will improve late like her sire Curlin or her sire’s currently most prominent offspring, the excellent Palace Malice, but things aren’t looking good for the spring segment of her three-year-old year.
Stopchargingmaria – Her Fantasy was slightly better than Please Explain’s, but not particularly good. She was fairly far back early, though not quite as far as Please Explain was, and steadily made up some ground. Stopchargingmaria broke slowly, and was wide the whole way through. That said, she was not so far wide that she couldn’t (or shouldn’t have been able to) make a move. Stopchargingmaria just never fired much, though, and crossed the wire fourth. I am still a bit confused that she didn’t run the Gazelle instead, given her love for the New York tracks (including Aqueduct!), but what’s done is done, and Repole and Pletcher sent her to Oaklawn. We’ll see what she does next.
Ride On Curlin – As expected based on Billy Gowan’s previous comments, Ride On Curlin returned to the worktab for a long one this week. On April 6, he worked 7 furlongs in 1:26.80 at Oaklawn. Other than that, there has been nothing new, which looks to be for the best. All systems are go for the Arkansas Derby. Ride On Curlin currently sits at 15 Kentucky Derby points, 23rd in the standings. First or second place will get him in the starting gate. Third will give him a good chance. Fourth place will mean a few things will have to fall his way to get him in. Off the board, and he has to hope he’s as lucky as Golden Soul and Giant Finish were last year.
Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan is still pointing toward the Arkansas Derby. He shipped out to Kentucky, and on April 7th worked a bullet 4 furlongs in 47.40 at his dearly beloved Churchill Downs. Today it was confirmed by Mary Rampellini of the Daily Racing Form that he has shipped down to Oaklawn for the race. He will need a big effort there, since he’s still sitting in 36th place with only nine points. First or second gets him in the Derby. Third, he hopes. Fourth, he hopes against hope. Fifth or worse? He’s out.
Tamarando – Tamarando has shown back up on the worktab for the first time since his disappointing finish in the Spiral. He has shipped back to California, and worked five furlongs on April 6 in 1:02.40. What’s interesting about this work is that, for the first time since I’ve been following him closely (in other words, since January), the work happened over the turf. This suggests Hollendorfer may be considering Tamarando for the green stuff, and suggests he is probably not going to run in any further points races for the league.
She’s a Tiger -April 3, She’s a Tiger returned to the worktab with an honest, long workout: 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 along the Santa Anita dirt. There was some suggestion that she may run in this Friday’s Santa Paula Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs over the Santa Anita dirt, and the official press feed from Santa Anita noted that she was nominated, but the draw came out without her in there. There has been no further word about what prep, if any, she may be running before the Eight Belles.
General a Rod – General a Rod still hasn’t returned to the worktab yet after his third-place finish in the Florida Derby. The General hasn’t lost any ground practically speaking; Wicked Strong leapfrogged ahead of him on the points list, but Toast of New York declared himself off the Derby trail for sure, so he’s still sitting at 14th on the official list. Other than Wicked Strong, the other big-point horses from the weekend already sat ahead of him on the standings: California Chrome, Hoppertunity, and Samraat. Barring an injury or a freakish amount of new horses who leapfrog him (combined with no drops from the Derby trail), The General should be in the starting gate on Derby day.
Shared Belief – The biggest news about Shared Belief this week is that Derbyologist will offload his future wager ticket to one lucky sap on Twitter who makes him an offer. I offered him a song for it. He still hasn’t responded. I’m pretty sure that’s the best offer he’s going to get for that slip of scratch paper, since Shared Belief still hasn’t shown up on the worktab yet.
That’s how things are going for my horses this week. So ends this week’s recap — and good luck to Ride On Curlin and Conquest Titan in the Arkansas Derby!
Somehow, it’s already ten weeks into the Derbyologist Triple Crown fantasy league. The same eight horses remain in my stable from March, putting me into a possibly slow position at the moment. However, since I have the most claiming money left, this puts me in very good position to snipe any late-storming Triple Crown candidates coming into May.
Without further ado, let’s see how all my horses are doing!
General a Rod – Saturday, General a Rod finished third in the Florida Derby, behind Constitution and Wildcat Red. He dueled with Wildcat Red, as has been the recurring theme this winter at Gulfstream — but Wildcat Red got the best of him, as did the stalking Constitution. This gave him twenty points toward the Derby, putting him at 40. This currently places him 14th among nominated horses on the Derby leaderboard. His connections are pointing him toward Kentucky, and 40 points should be enough to get the General in the gate, but it hardly feels like a lock yet. At this point, I am hoping he works toward the Derby, and is trained to rate a little better between now and then.
She’s a Tiger – She’s a Tiger returned to the worktab on March 27, going five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Santa Anita. For once, however, there’s more than just a work to report. The good news is, She’s a Tiger is now being pointed toward a specific race. The disappointing news is that this race is not a Kentucky Oaks prep: it’s the Eight Belles Stakes, a GIII sprint on the Derby undercard. This is a points race for the league, though at the same level as an early-period prep, not a classic race. Distance-wise, it’s a good first race of the year: seven and a half furlongs on the Churchill Downs dirt, and in plenty of time to possibly run the Acorn if all goes well.
Please Explain – Please Explain is one of two horses in my stable who are pointing to the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn this Saturday. She has ten Oaks points from her third in the Honeybee; first or second should get her in the field in Kentucky, and third will give her a possibility to go. She posted another work there on March 30, four furlongs in 48.80. It’s her second posted work since the Honeybee, and a good sign that she has stayed at Oaklawn for her works instead of shipping back to Tampa Bay, and then back. The scuttlebutt says that apprentice Drayden Van Dyke will have the mount again. He normally rides at Santa Anita and Turf Paradise, but shipped to Oaklawn to ride her in the Honeybee as well. Hopefully after a ride on her, he’ll know how to best run her this time around. I’m hoping not to see her as far back early as she was in the Honeybee. Depending on the likely pace of the field (not yet announced), I’m not sure she needs to try a wire-to-wire like the Suncoast, but I’m not sure ten lengths back early is exactly how she wants to run.
Stopchargingmaria – Like Please Explain, Stopchargingmaria is also pointing to the Fantasy. She just shipped to Arkansas on March 31. She is in a similar place points-wise; she currently has 12 points. First or second should secure a place in the starting gate for the Oaks, and third should keep Stopchargingmaria in the running pending how other preps go. She hasn’t posted a work in Arkansas, though she did go 4 furlongs in 49.65 at Palm Meadows on March 29. It was only about median for the horses who worked that day (34/65). However, she’s coming off a bullet on March 23, and it was probably wise not to expend too much energy in that last work before the ship. Her jockey had not been announced yet.
Conquest Titan – Conquest Titan returned to the worktab on March 29, going 5 furlongs in 1:oo.70 at Palm Meadows. He is still pointing toward the Arkansas Derby on April 12, and Calvin Borel has been named to the mount. He replaces Shaun Bridgmohan, who has ridden him four times, including his last three races. After the ride in Tampa, it is encouraging to see a jockey change, and encouraging to see a change to a jockey who has made some big closing moves in some big races. It will be Borel’s first time aboard Conquest Titan — though they will be racing against Ride On Curlin, who Borel has ridden in five races.
Ride On Curlin – On March 30, Ride On Curlin put up the ever-so-rare published work. He went 5 furlongs in 1.00:60 at Oaklawn. According to trainer Billy Gowan, he’ll be back out to work 7 furlongs on the track next week. Jockey Jon Court, who has not ridden Ride On Curlin in any of his races, rode him during this workout. He also has the mount for the Arkansas Derby. I keep my fingers crossed that he will try a big late run like he did in the Champagne, though after the Rebel I am less nervous about him running a frontrunning style. It will be interesting to see the field announced in the middle of next week, and figure out how the races he is capable of fit in with the likely pace.
Shared Belief – Shared Belief is still off the worktab, although David Grening of the Daily Racing Form mentioned March 31 that Jerry Hollendorfer said he may return to the tab next week. However, this is not the first time Hollendorfer has suggested such a thing, and I will believe he’s returning to the worktab when Horse Races Now alerts me that he has returned to the worktab, and not a moment before.
Tamarando – The biggest news about Tamarando this week is that there is no news about him. He hasn’t returned to the worktab yet after the Spiral, which isn’t particularly surprising since it has only been just over a week since the race. However, Blood-Horse reported on a list of probables for the Blue Grass on Sunday, and Tamarando’s name was nowhere to be found. I haven’t found anything reliable to indicate where he is; not seeing him in the Blue Grass probables list, though, makes it sound like he is probably back in California. It hurts to say this, given that he’s a solid and promising horse, but it sounds like the Derby trail may be over for Tamarando.
The second claiming period has come and gone, and the news is a little less exciting this time around. Shared Belief was a pretty obvious horse to attempt to drop, since he has been declared off the Kentucky Derby trail. I decided that everyone else in my stable was still promising enough to hang onto through the April round of preps.
Since your list of horses you attempt to claim had to be the same length as the list of horses you were willing to drop, this left me able to try to claim only one horse. I thought of quite a few, both colts and fillies, but kept coming back to one horse: Kid Cruz. He’s bred for distance, he impressed me on paper before the Private Terms, and blew me away on the track during that race. His connections were pointing him toward the Wood, and even though there are a lot of other talented horses pointed there as well, I relished the chance to put in my lot with Kid Cruz there, and hope for another dynamite closing run.
Another stable outbid me for Kid Cruz.
So, the roster of my stable remains the same. The silver lining is that I have the most Monopoly money left in my claiming reserve for the April, May, and June claiming periods, so hopefully I can snipe someone good going into the truly huge races.
Furthermore, Steve Haskin revealed last night (after the league claiming deadline) that Kid Cruz won’t be running in the Wood after all, due to a “minor setback”. Here’s hoping Haskin is right in that he will be okay, and if it’s truly minor maybe we’ll get to see him run in some other preps pointing toward the Preakness or Belmont. Leaguewise, I feel like I dodged a bullet not losing some of my reserve claiming a horse who may or may not even run in preps now. As a horse racing fan, especially as a fan who loves closers and loves distance races? I wish him a speedy recovery, and hope to see him on the track soon, because he’s one promising colt!