05/05/2012 2:32PM

Churchill Downs: Shackleford outduels Amazombie to win Churchill Downs Stakes

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Audrey C. Crosby
Shackleford scores a one-length win over Amazombie in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With approximately three furlongs remaining in the $441,600 Churchill Downs Stakes, reigning sprint champion Amazombie and Preakness champion Shackleford were on even terms.

For Amazombie, the question was how he would handle the seven-furlong distance. For Shackleford, the question was whether he could end a seven-race losing streak dating back 50 weeks.

At the end of a hard-fought stretch drive, it was Shackleford, under Jesus Castanon, edging away from Amazombie and Mike Smith to win the Grade 2 Churchill Downs by one length. It was five lengths back to Gantry in third.

The win was just Shackleford’s fourth from 15 starts and first since he won the Preakness by a half-length over Animal Kingdom.

“He’s as game as they come, he’s still our big horse for a couple more hours anyway,” said trainer Dale Romans, who was to start Dullahan in the Kentucky Derby later on the card. “He deserved a big win like that. He’s a special, special horse.”

Since the Preakness, Shackleford raced seven more times with three seconds – the Haskell, Indiana Derby, and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – and a third in the Grade 1 Carter last time out.

“It wasn’t as much frustration as I felt bad for him, he deserved to win some of those races,” Romans said. “I threw him in nine Grade 1’s, he showed up for me every time, but today was the old Shack.”

Shackleford broke alertly but was outsprinted for the lead by Will’s Wildcat, who ran an opening quarter in 21.96 seconds with Shackleford chasing inside of Amazombie.

Entering the far turn, Amazombie made a move to the lead, but Shackleford went with him from the inside. In midstretch, it looked as though Amazombie headed Shackleford, but Shackleford fought right back and outfinished the defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner.

Shackleford, a son of Forestry owned by Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge, covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.06 and returned $5.60 as the favorite.

“He was game,” Castanon said. “The horse on the outside came on top of me, my horse just fought back; couldn’t ask for better. He’s back.”

Smith said Amazombie was a bit sharper than he would have liked, which forced him to move earlier than he planned.

“I’d like to have gotten him back a little more, keep him away from horses and keep him relaxed because the distance is a question,” Smith said. “You know that last sixteenth got to me. At the Breeders’ Cup Sprint distance I got it, but this ain’t the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.”

Stuart More than 1 year ago
I agree Smith was a bug on the back of Bode, but was was he supposed to do here? The presence of Shack, a miler, forced him to move as much as anything. Amazombie is not running down Shack at 7f. I don't care how long you wait. The key is getting a jump on a horse like Shack. Am. is a stone cold sprinter, not Jackson Bend.
Stuart More than 1 year ago
I agree Shack is overdue. He was up against it last race against two of the best milers around at 7f. As game as they come.
MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
SHACKLEFORD = BODEMEISTER = RACHEL ALEXANDRA the same sprinters we bred off milers....yeah than can win 9 furlong or a tad longer but are not classic distance horses......
redboy More than 1 year ago
2 World Class Sprinters going head to head,, Doesnt get much better!
Jordan More than 1 year ago
7 furlongs just a tad long for Amazombie. Also, Amazombie carried 5 lbs more than Shack. If weight means anything, that had to have been the difference. But today it was Shack's day, and congrats to him. 2 worthy horses in an exciting duel.
silver_charm More than 1 year ago
Great to see Shackleford rewarded for his efforts! He's overdue! Beating Amazombie definitively erases any doubts one could have about him!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
And now Little Mike has made Romans Trainer of The Year!!!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Dale, I made mention this morning that you and Shack reminded me of Buddy Raines and 'See The USA.... He loved that horse and vice versa. I hope you and Shack are together as long as they were.