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Updated on 06/01/2012 12:54PM
Belmont: Shackleford by a nose over Caleb's Posse in Met Mile
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."
Sorry Mr. Romans but the PREAKNESS was the race of the year so far. The MetMile was an awesome race though. CP and Shac both ran huge.
WOW! That big, long head got Shackleford to the wire first. They were shoulder to shoulder at the wire. What a race!
Caleb's Posse has run 105, 106, 111, 110, 109, 115 beyer speed figure with Rajiv Maragh. His top beyer was 92 with other jockeys and he had run numerous one turn races before Rajiv. Occasionally he did not even fire, but he has fired every time with Rajiv at the helm. I think Donnie von Hemel should try him in one more 8.5f or 9f two turn races with Rajiv before calling him a one turn horse conclusively.
I think if he keeps it up he could go for championship...If only they had a championship for milers. Shack finally got his revenge against Caleb's Posse and he well deserves it. The horse runs his heart out every time. He has the determination of a champion. Even though Caleb ran a flawless race Shackleford just wasn't willing to give up and made sure his nose was there first. Truly spectacular racehorse
Okay , about this Iron Horse Shacleford! Plain and simple horse fans, he is the best sprinter in America. Guts, Guts , and more Guts. I have been following Shackleford since his dissapointing two turn Allowance race at Gulfstream and then to follow with a sensational defeat in the Florida Derby at 70/1 odds . In his triple crown races you just knew, Well I knew that Shackleford was a true ONE TURN racehorse.I know he won the Preakness, but that day he was just better that day period. Dale Romans I just wish you really know that this is a 1 turn Miler at most and not a step further> As a 3yo , I couldnt beleive that there was really no talk about him being 3yo champ, Come on , he was the 3yo champ in my eyes. Now as a 4 yo, Horse of the Year honor he will not be taken lightly Billy from Boston
I'm a Shack fan all the way because of his spirit and determination, but Caleb's Posse is another great horse and I have to agree with other posters here that he does need a new jockey. Look what it did for Shack.
The Metro Mile was th best race of the Year! I'm not sure the best Horse won. Although the Best Jockey did. JV simply out rode his rivals including CP's Jock! I did bet S to WIn and caught the Exacta. They bot had the same Systems Number but JV made the difference. CP needs a new Jockey. His ride caused CP betters to hold a losing Win ticket! Let's hope they both stay Healthy and in Form. They should tangle again at Sar, and hopefully the BC Dirt Mile.
No animal kingdom here!! Is shackelford kingdom for now!! Getting better and stronger as a 4yrs old..
115 is the beyer. CP's connections are the unluckiest i have seen in sometime. Shackleford deserves all the credit, but CP is the best horse in training right now. Run's big everytime he gets on the track. Just a bit unlucky
Bottom Line: Shack is the MAN!!!!!!! Just start giving him his props. This wasn't about any other horse not performing. This was Shack showing everyone he is the BEST right now!!