Chromies, we have a problem.
Even after California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid came up
short last month, the general consensus was that he had his division’s Eclipse
Award locked up. No 3-year-old had done nearly as much as the Cal-bred That
Could, and even with the son of Lucky Pulpit getting a well-deserved rest
through the summer, California Chrome appeared able to rest atop his lofty
In just one minute and 47 seconds, Shared Belief shattered
Last year’s champion 2-year-old male ran his record to
5-for-5 Saturday with his victory in the Los Alamitos Derby. Candy Boy, a
talented 3-year-old in his own right, challenged him going around the far turn,
but once Mike Smith shook the reins at the top of Los Alamitos’s long stretch,
Shared Belief was gone.
Suddenly, California Chrome’s stranglehold on the 3-year-old
male Eclipse Award got just a bit looser. It’s just one Grade 2 win, but now,
one can envision a scenario where, for the first time since 1972, a winner of
both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes will not capture the Eclipse
Shared Belief’s range of options is very wide. If trainer
Jerry Hollendorfer desires to send his star gelding east, he could potentially
run in either the Haskell Invitational or Jim Dandy, followed by an attempt at
the Travers Stakes. If Shared Belief stays in California, he could potentially
lock up with older horses in Del Mar’s Pacific Classic, followed by another
showdown with that group in Santa Anita’s Awesome Again.
Meanwhile, California Chrome’s options may be limited by his
current rest at Harris Farms. Trainer Art Sherman has said he expects his star
back at Los Alamitos in mid-August, meaning a run in the Pacific Classic may be
out of the question. That leaves the Awesome Again, or, as Sherman indicated
earlier this week, possibly a prep race at his home track prior to the Breeders’
Shared Belief has many more ways to bolster his resume than
California Chrome does. There’s quite a gap to make up, but it’s far from
insurmountable. What happens if Shared Belief wins a few Grade 1 races between
now and a showdown with California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?
Wouldn’t that race then serve as the deciding factor in the race for the
How much of a departure is this from the racing world’s line
of thinking after the Preakness Stakes? At that point, we thought California
Chrome was a superhorse, the horse destined to break one of the longest
droughts in all of sports. Less than two months later, he may not even be the
best 3-year-old horse in training.
It’s a fascinating conundrum, one that may sort itself out
on the track later this season. With any luck, this is a brewing rivalry, one
racing fans will be able to enjoy not just this year, but next year as well.