Updated on 06/01/2012 1:54PM

Belmont: Shackleford by a nose over Caleb's Posse in Met Mile

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Shackleford (right) holds off Caleb's Posse to win the Metropolitan Handicap.

ELMONT, N.Y. - It took a Classic winner to win a classic renewal of the Metropolitan Handicap.

Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner, used his speed to secure a clear early advantage and then withstood the furious rally of Caleb's Posse to win Monday's Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap by a nose at steamy Belmont Park. It was three lengths back to 6-5 favorite To Honor and Serve in third.

Caixa Eletronica, Jackson Bend, and Saginaw completed the order of finish.

After losing seven consecutive races following his Preakness victory, Shackleford has found his niche in races run around one turn. He beat the defending sprint champion Amazombie in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs at seven furlongs on May 5 before beating a terrific field in Monday's Met Mile.

"We accomplished our major goal," said Dale Romans, who trains Shackleford for Michael Lauffer, William Cubbedge and Phillips Racing Partnership.

"This is a stallion's race. We wanted to win it from the beginning of the year. This is where we were pointed, didn't expect it to be this star-studded a field, but it's pretty rewarding to beat them all."

Shackleford became the first horse to win the Preakness at 3 and the Met Mile at 4 since Carry Back (1961-62). Victory in the Met Mile earned Shackleford a spot in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile as part of the Win and You're In program.

Velazquez, who was mired in a 3-for-60 slump at this meet entering Monday's card - and who was booed lustily after getting beaten on odds-on favorite Awesome Maria in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps - picked up the mount on Shackleford after Jesus Castanon suffered a hand injury a couple of weeks ago.

Riding to instructions, Velazquez put Shackleford on the lead, but had to run a half-mile in 44.73 seconds to do it.

"I was comfortable with the way he was doing it," Velazquez said.

Shackleford was being chased by Jackson Bend and To Honor and Serve.

Shackleford kept on cruising through six furlongs in 1:08.52. In upper stretch, Jackson Bend was done and To Honor and Serve, though he got running room at the three-sixteenths pole, offered no punch.

But Caleb's Posse, a tough-luck loser of the Tom Fool and Carter handicaps at Aqueduct earlier this year, was coming with his bid down the center of the track under Rajiv Maragh.

Velazquez said he could see the shadow of someone coming, so he jetted Shackleford out so that he could see Caleb's Posse. Regardless of whether he saw him or not, Shackleford's nose hit the wire first. He ran a mile in 1:33.30 and returned $8.80.

"I saw the shadow coming so I had to go real far out to get him," Velazquez said. "I was wondering if somebody was in between and was thinking if nobody was there I was going to go straight out, and that's what made me win because when I came out, he put up a fight."

Said Romans: "It was the race of the year and it was exciting to be a part of it win, lose or draw. With all those good horses, as fast as they ran, to be a nose apart at the wire I think it lived up to the hype."

It was third straight race in which Caleb's Posse came up short with a huge late run. He was beaten a neck in the Tom Fool and a nose in the Carter.

"This horse just runs so hard every time and it's real unfortunate to lose a race like this by such a short margin as good as he ran," Maragh said. "The track has been fast all day and it seemed like it was a speed bias."

To Honor and Serve, the 8-5 favorite off wins in the last year's Cigar Mile and last month's Westchester, had no running room early and could not kick on when he got clear.

"An unlikely horse was keeping us in," said To Honor and Serve's trainer Bill Mott, referring to Jackson Bend. "Somebody I didn't expect to be even close to the pace. He was probably willing to get up there and challenge the leader down the backside, but he couldn't do it because he was kind of being held in."