CHROME VERSUS BELIEF IS WHAT WE NEED
Since Homo sapiens first began walking the earth, a big fire has always drawn attention. Here we are hundreds of thousands of years later and the same still holds true. If you want to draw a crowd, get out the gas can and fan that flame. Build the fire and they will come.
As the flame we commonly call the Breeders’ Cup begins to build, one of the main logs on the fire will be the showdown between three-year old heroes California Chrome and Shared Belief. Even though they have never met on the race track, there has been a debate building, especially in the Golden State, as to who is the better horse. Scheduled to meet in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the fire is beginning to stoke. As a California-bred that swept the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Chrome has shined bright in 2014. With an unbeaten record in 7 lifetime starts and impressive wins in the Pacific Classic and Awesome Again Stakes, Shared Belief has made the injuries of early in his three-year old season a distant memory.
One of the things the sport of Thoroughbred racing needs to make its fire bigger is more fan interest. Once nestled just behind baseball in the ranks of American sports fans, the sport of kings has slid down the totem pole of popularity. Shared Belief owner and sports talk show host Jim Rome has a theory as to what can help the sport gain in popularity among the regular sports fan.
“We need rivalries like every sport does,” says Rome. “Fans need to be able to identify with certain teams or athletes and get behind them. That can be a little tougher in this sport because some of these runners are not around for very long. But when you have those rivalries develop it gets the fans hooked in and that is exactly what we need.”
Much anticipated matchups are certainly something that fans the flame. When boxing was big it was Ali-Frazier that helped stir the pot. Major League Baseball has thrived on the Red Sox –Yankees scrap. Here in the South, college football wouldn’t be king without the likes of Tennessee- Alabama or Florida-Georgia. It’s that little extra something-something that helps get the juices flowing and the palms sweaty. Question is, does the California Chrome-Shared Belief square off really qualify as a rivalry because they have never met?
“It will certainly be special, but I don’t think you can classify it as a rivalry because they have never been on the track together,” says Shared Belief jockey Mike Smith. “There is no doubt a race that features two high profile horses like California Chrome and Shared Belief is a great thing for the sport. Being in the Breeders’ Cup too, man that makes it really special. I know it gets me pumped.”
Because the Breeders’ Cup will play host to this hoedown between horse racing heavyweights, there will be a few more logs on the fire. With a 5 million dollar purse on the line, the Classic promises to be anything but a two horse race. Fellow three-year olds Tonalist and Bayern will probably join the party after recording impressive wins in the last few weeks. In fact, California Chrome has finished behind both of those horses (Tonalist in the Belmont and Bayern in the Pennsylvania Derby) in his last two starts. That makes the meeting even more meaningful as the two with the most star power will not be alone or have to worry about a runner with no real chance to win sabotaging their effort.
“This is the Breeders’ Cup so everybody running has a chance ,” says Smith who leads all jockeys in Breeders’ Cup wins( 20). “There will be some great three-year olds in the race for sure. Tonalist ran huge in winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but there will be other great horses too. The older horses will be there and the Europeans usually always take a shot with somebody. We don’t know just yet who is going to be there, but you always know it is going to be very competitive.”
No matter who shows up, the square off between the highly acclaimed Belief and Chrome means that fire will be burning brightly. And that is every sports fan’s dream…a big, competitive fire!