Shared Belief, undefeated and unchallenged in three starts, has emerged as a real contender for next May's Kentucky Derby.
In fact, after winning Saturday's $750,000, Grade I Cashcall Futurity at Hollywood Park, he also is getting some consideration as 2-year-old male of 2013. One hurdle remains but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is ready to gallop the gelding right toward that barrier.
The futurity was a highlight of the week and especially so for Hollendorfer, who had a monster day on Saturday. Other 2-year-old tests were run hither and yon while Louisiana Champions Day brightened the Big Easy during the darkest days of the calendar year.
Let's shine a light on the action.
Shared Belief jumped right to the top level in Kentucky Derby speculation with a rather spectacular win in Saturday's $750,000, Grade I Cashcall Futurity at Hollywood Park. Shared Belief sat behind a quick early pace, waited patiently while Candy Boy shot to the lead at the end of the backstretch, got by that one turning for home and ran on to win by 5 3/4 lengths as the even-money favorite. Candy Boy held second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Tamarando. Tap It Rich, trainer Bob Baffert's hope here, was away slowly, ran erratically and finished 11th. Kobe's Back ran into traffic problems on the backstretch, took up and finished 10th. Shared Belief, a Candy Ride gelding out of the Storm Cat mare Common Hope, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course in 1:42.16 for jockey Corey Nakatani. Shared Belief now has won all three of his starts for trainer Hollendorfer, who also handles Tamarando. "Wow," Nakatani said. "My horse has a pretty high cruising speed and when [Candy Boy] made that early move, I couldn't go at that time." But, he added, "He did all the work and I was just a quiet passenger on him. Wow." Horses who have finished first or second in the Futurity include Alysheba, A.P. Indy, Thunder Gulch, Real Quiet, Point Given, Giacomo and Lookin' At Lucky -- all winners of at least one Triple Crown race in the subsequent year. Shared Belief won at first asking at Golden Gate Fields, then won the Grade III Hollywood Prevue by 7 3/4 lengths. Saturday's win proved he can handle two turns but he has yet to run on a real dirt track. "He'll ship to Santa Anita next week and then we'll see how he trains on dirt," Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward said Sunday. "The logical races to run in are the San Felipe, the Santa Anita Derby and then, if everything goes well, on to Kentucky." He said Tamarando likely will be pointed toward California-bred races at Santa Anita. The odds of a Derby push for Shared Belief are increased by the makeup of the ownership team, which includes exuberant radio personality Jim Rome.
Lucayan came from last of six to edge the favorite Temeraine by a half length in Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup. The early leader, Segway, finished third. Lucayan, a 4-year-old, French-bred colt by Turtle Bowl, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:26.14 with Joel Rosario riding. Previously campaigned in France, Lucayan had been winless in six previous North American starts, including a ninth-place showing in his previous outing -- the Grade I Canadian International at Woodbine. "The key to this guy is getting him to relax and Joel did a lovely job of relaxing him," winning trainer Neil Drysdale said. "He's had an unlucky year ... but this horse is talented."
Jerry Hollendorfer saddled the trifecta in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Native Diver Stakes. Blueskiesnrainbows, a 4-year-old English Channel colt, led from one end to the other. Hear the Ghost was making up ground late but finished a half length short and Rousing Sermon was another ha lflength back in third in a rousing result for the trainer. Blueskiesnrainbows, with Martin Pedroza in the irons, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:50.07. He came into the race off a second-place finish behind London Bridge in the Breeders' Cup Marathon last month at Santa Anita. The top three finishers are owned by three different entities. "I've run 1-2-3 before in the El Camino Real Derby [in northern California]," Hollendorfer said. "But you don't ever expect to do it in Southern California. I'm a very lucky guy." He said all three would be candidates for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap in March.
On Sunday, Teddy's Promise went quickly to the lead in the $100,000 Playa Del Rey Stakes for fillies and mares and wasn't threatened, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Judy In Disguise. Rumor was third. Teddy's Promise, a 5-year-old Salt Lake mare, finished 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.66 with Victor Espinoza riding.
Only four days of racing remain at Hollywood Park, which will be shuttered and redeveloped after next weekend's sentimental closing.
In the weekend's second-richest U.S. race for 2-year-olds, Louies Flower stalked the pace in Sunday's $250,000 Remington Springboard Mile, took the lead early in the stretch run and held off Churchill Downs invader Noble Cornerstone to win by a neck. Smack Smack was another 5 1/2 lengths behind in third while the favorite, Boji Moon, faded to finish fifth. Louies Flower, a Flower Alley colt out of the Johannesburg mare Tembisa, finished the mile on a fast track in 1:38.83 with Luis Quinonez in the irons for trainer Bret Calhoun. He went to the post at odds of 23-1 in a contentious field of 12. Will Take Charge finished second in this race last year. "We had an idea that two turns was right down his alley," assistant trainer Jay Severs said. "He was very impressive going a mile [in his previous start]. That's the race that keyed us to go here." He has three wins from five starts with all coming at Remington.
La Mejor Fiesta rallied to the lead late in Sunday's $55,000 Trapeze Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and drew off, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over pacesetting favorite Really and Truly. Xray Vision was seen finishing third. La Mejor Fiesta, a Harlan's Holiday filly out of the Thunder Gulch mare Better Now, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:40.16 for jockey Kent Desormeaux and trainer Wesley Ward.
Big Sugarbush rallied from last of eight to win a tight, three-way finish in Sunday's $50,000 JimThorpe Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 3-year-olds. My Brother Don had the lead through much of the stretch but lost by a neck. Dazzling Okie was another neck back in third. Big Sugarbush, a Kipling gelding, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:40.39 under Ramon Vazquez.
More Than Ever made all the going in Sunday's $50,000 Useeit Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies and kicked loose at the end, winning by 6 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Eye Love Jeanie, was the best of the rest with Lounge Lady finishing third. More Than Ever, a daughter of Stephen Got Even, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:39.28 with Alex Birzer in the irons.
Speaking of 2-year-old races, an English jockey rode an American-bred horse to victory in Sunday's Group 1 Asahi Hai Futurity at Nakayama -- Japan's only Group 1 event for juvenile colts. Asia Express, a Henny Hughes colt, got home 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Shonan Archive. Win Full Bloom finished third. Asia Express's last start was on dirt and jockey Ryan Moore said the versatility he showed Sunday should stand him in good stead next season. Moore also landed the Group 1 Japan Cup three weeks ago aboard Gentildonna.
Sunday's card, including two stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds, was canceled by the rotten weather that affected the Northeast.
Jonesy Boy, under Rajiv Maragh, rallied from last of five to win Saturday's $100,000 Queen's County Handicap by a neck over Don Dulce. Spa City Fever finished third. The favorite, Silver and Onions, stumbled at the start and tired late to finish last of five. Jonesy Boy, a 4-year-old Smarty Jones colt, finished 9 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:52.02.
Uno Duo ran duo through much of Thursday's $100,000 Fickle Fanny Stakes for fillies and mare, but got past the leader in time to finish Numero Uno by 3 1/2 lengths. Lady Gracenote was along to finish second in a dead heat with Carameaway. Pacesetter Indian Splendor completed the order of finish. Uno Duo, a 3-year-old Macho Uno filly, got 6 furlongs on the good inner track in 1:12.99 with Junior Alvarado piloting. The winner is a Juddmonte Farms homebred, trained by Bill Mott.
Candyman E wore down pacesetting favorite Dads Caps and went on to win Friday's $100,000 Spooky Mulder Stakes by 3/4 of a length over that foe. Praetero finished third. Candyman E, a 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding, covered 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:12.20 with Cornelio Velasquez up.
Calder Race Course
Simmstown rallied to the lead three-wide in Saturday's $100,000 Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap and edged clear in the final furlong, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Close It Out. Imperial Czar was a long shot third and the even-money favorite, Black Diamond Cat, finished seventh after a rough start. Simmstown, a 5-year-old son of Limehouse, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.12 under Edgard Zayas.
Baffle Me pressed the pace in Sunday's $100,000 South Beach Stakes for fillies and mares, took over the lead and held off Sure Route after a long stretch battle to win by a half length. The pacesetter, Miss Montreal, was only a neck farther back in third. Baffle Me, a 4-year-old First Samurai filly, got 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:30.64 with Javier Castellano up.
Heart Stealer stole up on pacesetting R Free Roll in the final yards to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes for fillies and mares by a neck. Munnings Sister was always close and finished just a neck farther back in third. Heart Stealer, a 3-year-old Speightstown filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.49, also with Castellano in the irons.
Saturday was Louisiana Champions Day, with all the races restricted to horses bred in the Sportsman's Paradise. The main track and turf course both were labeled good.
Ide Be Cool led all the way in the $100,000 Juvenile and kicked clear at the end to win by a cool 7 lengths. The even-money favorite, Coteau Ridge, beat the other seven. Dixie Beat finished third. Ide Be Cool, an Ide gelding out of the Bowman's Band mare Cool Climate, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.10 with Chris Rosier in the irons.
Lexi's Love surged past the favorite, All Woman, in the final strides to win the $100,000 Lassie Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by a head. Glamoride was another 3/4 of a length back in third. Lexi's Love, a daughter of Big Top Cat out of the Rahy mare Rosehearty, ran 6 furlongs in 1:13.69 with Diego Saenz up.
Hud's Rebellion took the lead on the second turn in the $100,000 Turf and won off by 1 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Sadie's Soldier finished second, a neck in front of Sweet Baby Gaines. Hud's Rebellion, a 4-year-old Ole Rebel colt, traversed about 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:48.34 with Rosie Napravnik up.
Guadalupe High came around the leaders to gain command in the $100,000 Ladies Sprint and went on to win by 3/4 of a length in a hand ride. Afternoon Tango was second and Mischievous Mama got show money. The favorite, Sittin At the Bar, faded to finish fifth. Guadalupe High, a 3-year-old Cuvee filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.24 under Gerard Melancon.
Ladyzarbridge walked the field through most of the $100,000 Ladies Stakes, pulled out to a comfortable lead when asked by Napravnik and held on to win by a neck over Tensas Harbor. Ante Up Annie got home third while the favorite, Little Ms Protocol, finished fifth. Ladyzarbridge, a 6-year-old Zarbyev mare, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.73.
Heitai led from the start in the $100,000 Sprint and won off by 7 lengths. The favorite, Southern Dude, was second and Hero Force finished third. Heitai, a 3-year-old Fusaichi Pegasus gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.64 for jockey Diego Saenz.
Sunbean, a fringe Triple Crown candidate at the beginning of the year, held off the veteran String King in the closing yards to land the $150,000 Classic by a nose. Skip the Pinot led through the early furlongs but settled for third, another 1 1/4 lengths in arrears. Sunbean, a Brahms gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a track downgraded to sloppy in 1:53.39 with Richard Eramia up. Sunbean won the Louisiana Futurity a year ago, raising hopes, and fueled that optimism with a win in the Gentilly Stakes in February. But he then got home eighth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and fifth in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland and since has been running successfully against lesser competition. String King, a 5-year-old, almost never misses the top three on the Louisiana circuit and won the Champions Day Turf the past two years. "We were together down the stretch," Eramia said. "I had a perfect trip. I knew [Skip the Pinot] was going to go to the lead and the other [String King] was going to be close. Everyone was going to be close no matter how you spin the race but we got the job done."
Quaesitor trailed the field in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Valedictory Stakes, closed to the leader at mid-stretch and showed the best late kick, winning by 3 lengths. Eagle Poise led briefly in the stretch run of the 1 3/4-mile marathon but then settled for second. Peyton was third. Quaesitor, a 4-year-old Friends Lake gelding, got home in 2:59.42 with Gerry Olguin aboard.
Paladin Bay stalked the pace set by the favorite, Lexie Lou, in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Lassie for Ontario-bred juvenile fillies, then won a three-way dash to the wire by a neck over Splashy Gizmo. Lexie Lou was just a nose further back in third. Paladin Bay, a Sligo Bay filly out of the Stormin Fever mare Stormin Wife, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course in 1:47.62 with Olguin in the irons.
Hawthorne Race Course
Rambling Richie, the pari-mutuel favorite, led from the start in Saturday's $100,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity for state-bred 2-year-old colts and geldings and won by 1 1/2 lengths while drifting out in the final sixteenth. A Step Ahead was a placing behind in second and Prado U finished third. Rambling Richie, a Lifestyle colt out of the Outflanker mare Harper N Abbey, ran 1 1/16 miles on a snowy but fast track in 1:49.37 with E.T. Baird in the irons.
High Test Gal stomped on the gas in the stretch run in Sunday's $85,000 Enchantress Stakes for New Mexico-bred 2-year-old fillies, opening a huge lead and coasting home first by 5 1/2 lengths. Lady Genius finished second with Rollse third and the favorite, That's the Idea, fourth. High Test Gal, a High Octane filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:39.35 with Francisco Giles riding.