Tom Jicha

Tom Jicha grew up in New York City and worked with John Pricci at the short-lived revival of the New York Daily Mirror. Tom moved to Miami in 1972 for a position in the sports department at the now defunct Miami News.

Tom became the TV critic in 1980 and moved to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1988. All the while he has kept his hand in sports, including horse racing. He has covered two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream Park.

He's been the Sun Sentinel’s horse racing writer since 2007 as a staff member, and continues to this day as a free-lancer.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

‘Belief’ and ‘Chrome’ could be the new Alydar and Affirmed

Shared Belief's dominant score in the Pacific Classic answers the last question about his brilliance. He has won on synthetics and dirt. He has won at six furlongs and a mile and a quarter. He is the first of his generation to take on and put down older horses in an important race. But he still has one obstacle to overcome en route to a divisional Eclipse and Horse of the Year: Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome. That showdown is expected to come in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Even casual fans should be excited about that.

MIAMI, Aug. 26--Nothing excites the masses and mitigates the negatives afflicting racing as much as the emergence of a potential superstar. In the case of Shared Belief, ”potential” might be short-changing him.

With his dominating triumph in the Pacific Classic on Sunday, Shared Belief has done everything necessary to qualify for the grandest superlatives.

He is already a champion, the 2013 Juvenile Eclipse winner.

He is undefeated and yet to be seriously tested. His almost three-length win Sunday was the closest call he has had. Previously no horse had come within four lengths of him at the wire.

The runner up at Del Mar, Toast of New York, came into the race with formidible credentials himself. His four synthetic starts produced three wins and a second, including a score in the UAE Derby.

Show horse Imperative, whose credits include a win the Charles Town Classic, was five back, a neck better than Game On Dude, this year’s Big Cap winner and the big horse in the West the past three years. The rest, most of them older stakes winners, were strung out to Carlsbad.

Shared Belief demonstrated he is multi-dimensional and able to overcome adversity. The son of Candy Ride had never been worse than third at any call in his previous five races. After a troubled start in the Pacific Classic, he was sixth down the backstretch, racing between horses. Mike Smith joked that Shared Belief gave the others a head start.

The Pacific Classic was run on a synthetic surface, Polytrack, but it was the third different artificial surface over which Shared Belief has triumphed.Unlike many synthetic specialists, he proved just as dominant on real dirt in the Los Alamitos Derby.

Prior to his ten-furlong score Sunday, he had won at six furlongs, seven furlongs, a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and an eighth.

Although Toast of New York also is a 3-year-old, Shared Belief is the first major North American 3-year-old to be tested by older stakes horses in a meaningful event.

There are no questions left for Shared Belief to answer.

Shared Belief is a gelding, so he could be around to energize the racing scene for years. It’s a bonus that his majority owner is Jim Rome. His sports talk show is one of the nation’s most popular. Rome will be talking up Shared Belief to the young males racing needs to reach.

It had to be a disappointment to Rome that foot ailments kept Shared Belief out of the Triple Crown but he could be going for his own unique triple in the Breeders’ Cup. His filly Mizdirection won the Turf Sprint, beating males, the past two years.

Perhaps the best part for racing is that Shared Belief has an outstanding rival, California Chrome, to stir interest among even casual fans. Alydar made people appreciate Affirmed more. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had each other. Magic had Larry Bird.

For all that Shared Belief has accomplished, if the Eclipse balloting was held now, California Chrome would be voted the 3-year-old championship, just as the last 16 winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness have been. California Chrome has the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby to go with his Triple Crown heroics. The Pacific Classic was Shared Belief's first Grade 1.

That election won’t take place until after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, when assuming good health, the two extraordinary 3-year-olds will face off for the first time. Not only divisional honors will be up for grabs but Horse of the Year as well, should either win.

V.E. Day’s upset in the Travers effectively took all the Eastern 3-year-olds out of the running.

Even if only one of the West’s stars makes it to Santa Anita on Nov. 1, a win against older horses such as Palace Malice, Moreno and Will Take Charge, would clinch the two awards. Not even a late-season streak by two-time defending champion Wise Dan would change that.

Shared Belief and California Chrome are each expected to have one tune-up before their showdown. Shared Belief’s will most likely come against older competition in the Awesome Again on Sept. 27. This will give him a trip over Santa Anita’s dirt track.

California Chrome’s connections will follow the money to the Pennsylvania Derby, which is limited to 3-year-olds, a week previously.

The Parx race has a million dollar pot but there’s an additional lure for California Chrome’s owners, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, who are in the process of squandering a lot of the good will they enjoyed on the Triple Crown trail.

First there was Martin’s boycott of the Preakness because he wasn’t treated well at the Derby. Then Coburn went bat-dung crazy because fresher colts denied California Chrome the Triple Crown. Next they demanded $50,000 from Del Mar for California Chrome to parade on Pacific Classic Day. (In retrospect, imagine how embarrassing it would have been for California Chrome to just parade before his rival Shared Belief put on a real show in the big race.)

For taking their colt across country to a race that can only tarnish his luster should he not win as an overwhelming favorite, they will get what amounts to a $100,000 appearance fee. This is on top of anything California Chrome earns.

Trainer Art Sherman also gets an extra hundred grand when California Chrome leaves the starting gate. It will be interesting to see the reaction from Coburn and Perry when they realize they are splitting $100K while Sherman gets the full amount all for himself.

Written by Tom Jicha

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