Shared Belief is early favorite for the Kentucky Derby - NBC Sports

Shared Belief is early favorite for the Kentucky Derby
December 15, 2013, 9:15 pm

You'd think that when a trainer runs first, second and third in a graded stakes, the stable area would be abuzz with the news the following morning.

There was a buzz all right, but for a different reason.

Though Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer completed the trifecta in Saturday's Grade 3 Native Diver with Blueskiesnrainbows, Hear the Ghost and Rousing Sermon, respectively, the achievement was dwarfed by the trainer's scintillating victory with Shared Belief in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity.

The CashCall was Shared Belief's third blowout win in as many starts. He's won his races by a combined 20 1/2 lengths after his 5 3/4 length win in the CashCall.

"I think he deserves the Eclipse (as champion two-year-old male)," stated Dan Ward, Hollendorfer's long-time assistant. "He was never asked and I think this race was easier on him than the other two. His time was fast and he beat a really good field."

Hollendorfer was a bit more reserved on the subject.

"I think the other side (referring to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day) would have a different argument," he said.

So far, Shared Belief has proven his speed, class and stamina. The next question is how he will handle dirt. His October 19 maiden victory was on the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields and he earned his first win over Cushion Track in the Hollywood Prevue on November 10.

"He'll ship to Santa Anita next week and then we'll see how he trains on dirt," Ward said. "The logical races to run in are the (Grade 2, $300,000) San Felipe Stakes (on March 8), (Grade 1, $1 million) Santa Anita Derby (on April 5) and then if everything goes well, on to Kentucky."

Never one to put the cart before the horse, Hollendorfer pointed out other options.

"There are a lot of three-year-old races at the beginning of the year," he said. "We'll probably stay in California but we'll also look elsewhere."

Ward suggested that Shared Belief came out of the race better than he went in.

"He came back perfect," he said. "He's not a huge horse, but he's growing all the time."

Ward said that Del Mar Futurity and Real Quiet Stakes winner Tamarando, who finished third, seven lengths behind his stablemate, also returned well and would be pointed for California-bred races at the upcoming Santa Anita winter/spring meet, which begins December 26. Ward added that Blueskiesnrainbows, Hear the Ghost and Rousing Sermon all came out of the Native Diver in "great shape."

An honorable mention in the CashCall goes to Candy Boy, who finished second at 26-1 after breaking his maiden by 8 1/4 lengths on November 22 over track and distance. The John Sadler trainee gave sire Candy Ride an exacta sweep.

"The winner was impressive, but my horse ran very well," Sadler observed. "He was clear of the third-place finisher and well clear of the fourth horse. I think he's a Derby-type horse.

"He came back well, but Kobe's Back had a superficial cut on his ankle."

Kobe's Back finished 10th after clipping heels on the backstretch.

Tap It Rich, the 5-2 second choice in the Futurity, finished 11th and was unmanageable for much of the race.

"He's fine this morning," said Mike Marlow, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. "After his first race, he's become real aggressive and has been lugging in and out fighting the rider. He's a project."