A collective gut punch rippled through the Thoroughbred community when Shared Belief, the champion 2-year-old male of 2013, died Thursday at the University of California-Davis after a colic episode.
According to a post on co-owner Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing Facebook page, the 4-year-old gelded son of Candy Ride began displaying signs of colic Thursday morning and was rushed to UC-Davis for emergency surgery where attempts to save the multiple Grade I winner were unsuccessful.
“Thoroughbred racing is a sport filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Some of the most thrilling and surreal moments of our entire lives have occurred in this sport. Unfortunately, today we have suffered our most devastating,” Rome posted. “We are all absolutely devastated. Shared Belief was a once in a lifetime horse. A champion, fighter and unbelievable talent who impacted and changed all of our lives.”
Shared Belief had been sidelined since being pulled up with what was diagnosed as a hip fracture in the Grade II Charles Town Classic on April 18. The dark bay gelding had recently returned to training with designs on a 2016 campaign. Instead, his connections and fans will wonder if they ever got to see the best of what the smallish, gritty champion had in him.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who also co-owned the gelding in partnership with Jungle Racing, KMN Racing, Jason Litt, Alex Solis II and George Todaro, Shared Belief won the Grade I CashCall Futurity to cement his championship 2-year-old campaign in 2013 but never got a chance at the Triple Crown races the following year because of a foot injury. Upon his return to the races in May 2014, Shared Belief rattled off four straight wins including victories over older horses in the Grade I Pacific Classic and Grade I Awesome Again Stakes to set him up as the favorite for that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.
That outing was another case of what might have been as Shared Belief was slammed out of the gate by eventual Classic winner Bayern, causing him to lose all position at the start en route to a fourth-place finish, his first career loss. Though he came back to take the Grade I Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita that December, divisional honors and the Horse of the Year title went to California Chrome.
“The little horse that feared no one and could do anything,” Rome added in his Facebook statement. “He absolutely loved his job and to compete and run. As heartbreaking as this is, we all consider ourselves so fortunate to have been a part of this amazing animal’s life. He was a super horse from day one.”
California Chrome had the hardware, but Shared Belief won the bragging rights between the two when they met in the Grade II San Antonio Invitational at Santa Anita last February. With regular jockey Mike Smith in the irons, Shared Belief handled his champion rival, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. He then stamped himself as the early leader of the handicap division with an easy-as-he-pleased 4 1/4-length win in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 before getting injured at Charles Town.
Bred by Pam and Marty Wygod, Shared Belief won 10 of 12 career starts and had earnings of $2,932,200.
“There will never be another like Shared Belief. Our hearts are broken,” Rome posted. “RIP, Champ.”