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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Let's Talk About Shared Belief

Shared Belief is an interesting horse. I've always though he was very talented, but overhyped and a bit unproven. After watching today's Awesome Again, I have finally seen a race that really makes me want to talk about the star three year old.

      Now I am in no way trying to knock Shared Belief, I just want to look at things realistically.

      I'm not someone who gets sucked into "undefeated" as a reason to back why a horse is great. Secretariat lost. John Henry lost. If you want to say "Shared Belief is better than everyone else because he hasn't lost yet!" then I really wouldn't want to waste my breath discussing much with you.

      One of the biggest topics I'm seeing in regards to today's race is the quality of the field he beat. Let's look at that. First we've got Fed Biz, Fed Biz is a capable horse, he's a three-time Grade II winner who's most notable accomplishment is defeating Goldencents in the 2013 Pat O'Brien at Del Mar. Before today he had raced in three Grade Is on dirt and never been closer than 6 3/4 lengths to the winner or finishing better than sixth. He's good on dirt but better on synthetic and turf. Sky Kingdom is next, he's a talented 12 furlong horse who's most recent win came in the American Flag Stakes, a black type, $75,000 race at Los Alamitos. Footbridge finished second in the Oak Tree Handicap at Pleaseanton before running second in the Grade II San Diego at Del Mar behind Fed Biz. Majestic Harbor earned his first Graded Stakes win in the Grade III Tokyo City over 12 furlongs, but really made headlines after winning the Grade I Gold Cup over Clubhouse Ride after a total pace meltdown from Game On Dude and Fury Kapcori. Mystery Train is a multiple Group I winner in Argentina, but his first American start saw his as nothing but Game On Dude's pace pressure who folded to be nowhere in the Pacific Classic. Then finally, Imperative. He was a no-name before getting a golden setup to win the Charles Town Classic, who most recently finished third in the Pacific Class.

      If you want to argue that that field is a super tough, top level Grade I field, go ahead. You're wrong, but I'll grant you the freedom to do so. You can use beating Game On Dude as a reason that these are Grade I horses, but Game On Dude was a super easy target this year and everyone took advantage of that. This was not a Grade I quality field.

     BUT

     Sometimes judging the quality of a horse's race is not in the who they beat, but in the how they did it, and Shared Belief did it pretty impressively today. He was wide the entire nine furlong journey, never saw the rail, never really got into a good position; had he lost, trip would have been a very viable excuse. But he made his move against frontrunner Fed Biz, and when Fed Biz re-rallied and tried to fight back, Shared Belief responded very gamely and proved he was best. He fought, and that's what a great horse needs to be able to do. If you can't respond to a challenge, you're not going to beat the big boys. Before today, I had never seen a race where Shared Belief had really been put in a challenging situation. The Pacific Classic was an effortless looking win, but everything in that race that could have happened to make things easy for him happened. The Awesome Again was a much more important, developmental race.

     Was this the toughest field out there? No. Let's be honest, when the "scary, undefeated" horse is running, people shy away and look for easier spots. No need to risk a smaller money loss when you're prepping for the Classic. But if you want to call Shared Belief a toss because "he hasn't beaten anything," you're clearly not watching the way this horse races. He's got everything he needs to be great. He just needs to beat a great field. We'll see if he can do that in a few weeks.

     


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