12/31/2011 3:05PM

Aqueduct: Shkspeare Shaliyah will try dirt in Count Fleet

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Barbara D. Livingston
Shkspeare Shaliyah, winner of the Grade 3 Pilgrim on turf, will experiment on dirt in next Saturday's Count Fleet.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Already a graded stakes winner on turf, Shkspeare Shaliyah will be given the opportunity to prove himself on dirt when he starts in Saturday’s $150,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct.

The Count Fleet, run at a mile and 70 yards over the inner track, is the first stakes for 3-year-old males scheduled in New York in 2012.

At 2, Shkspeare Shaliyah won 2 of 4 starts on turf, including the Grade 3 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont. He then finished ninth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Wrote, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs in November.

“We breezed him here a couple of times and he’s handled the dirt very, very good,’’ said Doodnauth Shivmangal, the trainer of Shkspeare Shaliyah. “The mare is by Clever Trick. I think he should be able to dirt, but it’s a shot I’m taking.’’

Shkspeare Shaliyah came with a strong closing kick in his first three races, including the Pilgrim, in which he overcame a dawdling pace and extremely soft turf. Things didn’t go as planned for Shkspeare Shaliyah in the Juvenile Turf, however.

“The day before the race we were expecting to gallop him on the turf, but they closed the turf,’’ said Shivmangal, noting that action by Churchill Downs officials caused quite an uproar among the European trainers. “The jockey took him on the dirt and he galloped him too fast.’’

Shivmangal said that Shkspeare Shaliyah also got hit with a clod of dirt in his left eye at the top of the stretch of the Juvenile Turf, in which he was last of 14 early on.

Shivmangal planned to work Shkspeare Shaliyah on the dirt on Sunday, and was even thinking of vanning him from Belmont to Aqueduct for the move.

Entries for the Count Fleet will be taken on Monday.