Shackleford, a multiple Grade I winner of more than $2.8 million, will seek to add one more feather to his cap before retiring to stud when he makes his final career start in Friday’s 138th running of the $400,000-added Clark Handicap (GI).
“He ranks right up there with some of the best horses I’ve trained,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He’s done all he needs to do, but it’ll be hard to see him go. Horses like him are hard to replace. He’s my first classic winner and that means a lot. My favorite memory of him was when he hit the wire in the Preakness (GI).”
Shackleford, who most recently finished a troubled seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) at Santa Anita, broke his maiden at odds of 25-1 in his second start on the undercard of the Stars of Tomorrow program on Nov. 27, 2010. He made his 3-year-old debut in an allowance at Gulfstream Park in February and has since run in 16 consecutive graded stakes races, including 12 Grade Is.
“You always hope you’ll have another come along, but you never know,” Romans said. “When I had my first Grade I horse (Roses in May), I thought I’d never have another one. Some others have come along, but Shacklefords are few and far between.”
The 1 1/8-mile Clark Handicap will be the first race at a distance greater than a mile for Shackleford since finishing seventh in the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream in February. Before landing on the Clark as the spot for his final race, Romans considered shipping Shackleford to New York for Saturday’s Cigar Mile (GI).
“I wanted to run him at Churchill Downs and didn’t want to ship him,” Romans said. “He’s doing good here right now and he likes this racetrack. I think he’ll run big and the 1 1/8 miles might be a little easier on him pace wise than the (Cigar) Mile. I think he can still stretch out. The mile races are the toughest races on a horse and are the toughest to win.”
Shackleford, who scored his biggest victory since the Preakness in the Met Mile (GI) at Belmont in May, will not stay at Churchill Downs long before heading to Darby Dan Farm to begin his career as a stallion. Romans said he expects Shackleford to leave the Louisville track early next week.
“He’s ready to move on to his next career,” Romans said. “He’s got it all – the looks, speed, winning at a mile and a royal pedigree. He should hit as a stallion.”
The Clark is scheduled as Race 11 on the 12-race program with a post time of 5:35 p.m. (all times Eastern).
UNCAPTURED HEADS OXLEY, CASSE DUO FOR KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB – John Oxley’s Uncaptured, 5 ½-length winner of the Iroquois (GIII) at Churchill Downs on the “Stars of Tomorrow I” program, will return for “Stars of Tomorrow II” in Saturday’s $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII).
Winner of his first four starts, including the Clarendon, Vandal and Swynford, Uncaptured suffered his lone loss when finishing fifth in the Grey (GIII) at odds of 2-5. He rebounded form that performance to score his Iroquois victory in his first start on dirt.
“He’s always acted like he was a little on the special side,” trainer Mark Casse said. “The way these things go, it’s about how they progress and he’s progressed. It looks like he’s a realy nice horse, but we still have to figure out if he’s top of the class. Hopefully on Saturday, he’ll pass another test.”
A “Road to the Kentucky Derby” Prep Season race, the Top 4 finishers in the Kentucky Jockey Club will receive 10-4-2-1 points, respectively.
“Anytime you have a good 2-year-old, you’re thinking about the Derby,” Casse said. “That’s why we brought him to Louisville and ran him in the Iroqouis, to see how he handled Churchill. You always have a focus on the first Saturday in May. If he pulls off the win Saturday, I think he’d have to be considered one of the best 2-year-olds in the country.”
Following the Kentucky Jockey Club, Uncaptured won’t have too much time off from training before he begins to prepare for a 3-year-old campaign.
“I’m not going to give him a lot of time off as long as he’s happy and healthy,” Casse said. “As long as he runs well and comes out of it healthy, he’ll go straight to Palm Meadows and he’s not going to miss a whole lot of training. I’ll sit down with Mr. Oxley and we’ll probably come up with some sort of plan on how we want to get him to the Derby, but we have to get through Saturday first.”
Oxley and Casse also will have Indiano Jones, third in both the Summer (GII) and Grey, in the Kentucky Jockey Club.
“Indiano Jones is an interesting horse,” Casse said. “We don’t know where he stacks up with our other 2-year-olds. He’s maybe five or six on our list. He’s trained just average over the dirt at Churchill, but he has a dirt pedigree and we want to see how he likes Churchill Downs.”
GAL ABOUT TOWN IN GOOD FORM FOR GOLDEN ROD BID – Gal About Town was second best in the Pocahontas (GII) and finished four-lengths behind Sign, but trainer Bret Calhoun is hopeful she will build off that effort and prove best in Saturday’s $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs.
“I thought she ran well last time; she was just outrun,” Calhoun said from Fair Grounds. “Everything went well, she just ran into one that was better that day. She came out of the race good and is training very well.”
The Pocahontas was the first race at a distance greater than six furlongs for the Iroquois Racing Club LLC filly.
“I think until you try it, the (distance) is a question,” Calhoun said. “We came out of that race with a lot more confidence in her ability to go two turns based on what (jockey) Jesus (Castanon) said. He told us she galloped out very strongly. So, the distance wasn’t an issue. We just got outrun.”
As a “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” Prep Season race, the Top 4 finishers in the Golden Rod will receive 10-4-2-1 points, respectively.
“We were enticed by the $500,000 in the Delta Princess (on Nov. 17), but I felt like in the long run this was the best path,” Calhoun said. “So we waited, and went for the less money and are going to run her out of her own stall. I think in the long run, it’ll be beneficial for her looking forward to her maybe turning out to be an Oaks filly.”
CHURCHILL TO HOST 50,000TH RACE – Churchill Downs, which ran its first race on May 17, 1875, will stage its 50,000th race on Thanksgiving Day. Churchill Downs began the week with having run 49,980 races run over 5,940 racing dates at the historic Louisville oval – 20 races shy of the historic milestone. The 50,000th race will be Race 10 on Thanksgiving Day’s 12-race program. Post time for Race 10 is 3:52 p.m.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI) winner Groupie Doll is scheduled to leave Churchill Downs on Wednesday and van to trainer Buff Bradley’s farm in Frankfort, Ky. She will board a van bound for Aqueduct on Thursday morning to compete in Saturday’s Cigar Mile (GI) … Highlighting Wednesday’s worktab at Churchill Downs was a trio of stakes horses from trainer Wayne Lukas’ barn. Broken Spell, runner-up to Spring in the Air in the Darley Alcibiades (GI) at Keeneland, breezed three furlongs in :36.20 on the fast main track, Eye of the Leopard, who is entered in Friday’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), breezed a bullet four furlongs in :48, and Optimizer, winner of the Kent (GIII) at Delaware Park, breezed four furlongs in :49 … Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel enters Wednesday’s card at Churchill Downs just four wins shy of becoming the 26th jockey to reach the 5,000-win milestone. Borel had mounts in Races 1, 3, 5, 6 and 9 on Wednesday’s 10-race program … Donver Stable’s Tesseron, runner-up to River Seven in the Grey (GIII), arrived at Churchill Downs from his base at Woodbine late Tuesday for Saturday’s $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII). The Josie Carroll trainee is stabled in Barn 36 with trainer Mark Casse.
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