Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Alex Evers
The newest sensation of the horse racing world is the two-year-old gelding Shared Belief. The dark bay son of Candy Ride demonstrated tremendous professionalism and crushed his opposition by almost six lengths in last Saturday's Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park.
Everything about the performance was fantastic, including the final time of 1:42.16 for the 8.5 furlongs. Indeed, that time compared very favorably to the winning time of 1:50.07 for older males going nine furlongs in the Grade 3 Native Diver two races earlier on the card.
TimeformUS Chief Figure Maker Craig Milkowski had the unenviable task of assigning speed figures for that day's card at Hollywood Park. He decided to cut the Futurity loose from the rest of the day and apply a separate variant to it. Craig opted to do this because he was skeptical of the top four finishers in the Futurity all achieving big new career-top speed figures, and because he didn't like the chances that all the older horses in the Native Diver regressed in a significant way.
Believe it or not, this wasn't the first time that a horse won the Hollywood Futurity in fast time and freakish fashion, only to have the speed figure for the race controversially reduced in the figure making process.
In 1989, the mighty two-year-old Grand Canyon demolished his field by 6.5 lengths in the Hollywood Futurity. His final time of 1:33 flat still stands as the fastest mile ever run by a two-year-old on dirt. His Beyer speed figure would have been 120 with a straight variant. As you can read here, it was reduced to a 106 for virtually the same reasons we at TimeformUS decided to handle Shared Belief's race as we did. A horse D. Wayne Lukas compared to Mike Tyson and publicly raved about, the ill-fated Grand Canyon would never run another race after his freakish Futurity triumph. He was euthanized at age 3 after contracting Laminitis following a leg injury.
Lukas had told reporters that the $825,000 yearling purchase would win the following year's Kentucky Derby. However, it would be a different son of Fappiano who would go on to capture the 1990 Kentucky Derby. His name was Unbridled, and he had sold for a mere $70,000 at auction.
While not at all tragic like Grand Canyon, the Bobby Frankel-trained filly Country Star is another sobering reminder of what can go wrong with a hyped up modern two-year-old.
On December 15th 2007, Country Star dazzled racing fans by winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes for two-year-old fillies in the tremendous final time of 1:40.54
Three races earlier that very day at Hollywood Park, the older filly Zenyatta needed 1:40.97 to impressively win an entry level allowance race. Not only did Country Star run a faster final time than the older Zenyatta, but she also ran faster closing fractions. Zenyatta closed 2.5 lengths into the teeth of a 30.94 second final 5/16th clocking. Country Star, meanwhile, closed 3.5 lengths into the teeth of a 30.40 second final 5/16th clocking. Moreover, Zenyatta ran her final 1/16th in a fast 6.36 seconds. Country Star ran hers in a faster 6.08 seconds.
Not only did Country Star have Bobby Frankel in her corner, she was sired by Empire Maker, and her dam was a Grade 1 winner going a route of ground on dirt. Surely Country Star was headed for great things, right?
She didn't make her three-year-old debut until the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, where she was bet to even-money favoritism over eventual champion Proud Spell. Country Star finished fifth in the Ashland. She finished sixth in the Kentucky Oaks with that prep under her, and never was able to live up to the promise she demonstrated as a two-year-old.
If Shared Belief is to live up to his potential, he will have to stay sound and reproduce his synthetic form on a dirt surface.
#4: Shared Belief After an eye-catching debut win at Golden Gate, this son of Candy Ride was exceptionally impressive while winning the Hollywood Prevue by almost 8 lengths. He was assigned a TimeformUS speed figure of 102 for the effort, and should only improve with added distance. The big question mark is that he hasn't been tried on dirt yet, and some Candy Rides won't handle the dirt as well as the synthetic. Remember Sidney's Candy? He was also a Candy Ride out of a Storm Cat mare. He dominated the Santa Anita Derby, winning by 4.5 lengths over a synthetic surface that has since been removed. However, in the Kentucky Derby, Sidney's Candy finished 17th, and he never proved himself a top-class dirt horse in subsequent tries over the surface.
Well, Shared Belief emphatically answered the distance question. The dirt question is the one that remains, and we're not so sure about the answer.
While speaking about Shared Belief, the excellent HRTV commentator Jeff Siegel said on-air: "He's a little wide in front, and he's never run on dirt before. A trainer who will remain nameless said to me that he believes Shared Belief won't be the same horse once he finally competes on a dirt surface."
In the same segment, Jeff Siegel continued to speculate on possible chinks in the armor of Shared Belief. Siegal said: "20 years ago, I saw a two-year-old win the Hollywood Futurity with the best performance I had seen by any two-year-old since Seattle Slew. His name was Afternoon Deelites, and I was absolutely convinced he'd go a mile and a quarter. He looked like he'd go a mile and a quarter, but he just couldn't go that far, and he turned out to be only a nice sprinter, miler type. You simply can't know for sure if a horse wants to go that far until they try it."
If Shared Belief can stay sound and reproduce his form on a dirt surface, it will make for a great deal of excitement. He may have a huge upside, but the reality is that modern two-year-olds like him rarely live up to their promise.