11/23/2012 7:40PM

Churchill Downs: Shackleford wires Clark to go out a winner

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Shackleford (right), with Jesus Castanon riding, earns the victory in the Clark Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A blazed-faced chestnut named Shackleford went out in a blaze of glory, earning an emotional victory for his connections in the final start of his standout career Friday in the 138th running of the Grade 1, $447,000 Clark Handicap, the annual fall showcase at Churchill Downs.

With hometown trainer Dale Romans and dozens of supporters rooting their hearts out in the shadows of the Churchill lights, Shackleford dug down deep in the stretch to protect his race-long lead, taking the 1 1/8-mile race by a length over his race-long pursuer, Take Charge Indy.

"Unbelievable," Romans said in the immediate aftermath. "What a horse. I love that horse. We all love that horse."

Bred and owned in Kentucky by Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge, Shackleford returned $7.80 as second choice in a field of nine 3-year-olds after finishing in 1:49.12 over a fast track. Bourbon Courage was just another head back in third, and it was a big gap of nearly seven lengths to Lunar Victory, the slight 5-2 favorite in a field of nine 3-year-olds and upward.

Jesus Castanon, who rode Shackleford to victory in the 2011 Preakness, was back aboard the 4-year-old colt for the Clark after a four-race absence. Unlike in his previous race, the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in which he finished a troubled seventh, Shackleford broke cleanly and swiftly from post 2 and proceeded straight to the early lead, a position from which he has enjoyed his best results.

"He relaxed, and nobody really came to him until they had to," said Castanon. "Then he gave me everything he had."

It could hardly get any better for Romans, who has enjoyed a breakthrough year and is one of the top contenders for the 2012 Eclipse Award for top trainer. Surrounded not only by his life partner, Tammy Fox, and their two grown children, but also by dozens of friends and business associates, Romans watched in his usual spot in the third-floor clubhouse and was mobbed when Shackleford crossed under the wire safely in front.

Shackleford, by Forestry, will soon head to Darby Dan Farm for 2013 stud duty. Romans had considered the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Saturday for a career finale. He earned $266,054 with his sixth win from 20 starts that also included triumphs in the Grade 1 Met Mile and Grade 2 Churchill Downs earlier this year. His career bankroll totals $3,090,101.

"Regardless of what happens in New York, I guess we made the right call," said Romans, who was born and raised in Louisville. "To win my first Clark . . . what a great thrill."

After Lunar Victory, the order of finish was Mission Impazible, Cease, Stealcase, Fast Falcon, and Eye of the Leopard. Pool Play was an early scratch.

The $2 exacta (3-6) paid $48.20; the $1 trifecta (3-6-4) returned $123.70; and the dime superfecta (3-6-4-10) was worth $43.16.

Churchill releases attendance figures only for major races, but the usual Friday-after-Thanksgiving throng turned out on a cool day that was sunny before the Clark was run.

** Earlier Friday, Salty Strike ($5) won the $67,100 Dream Supreme for the second year, rallying between rivals under Victor Lebron to prevail by a half-length over Cheery. Salty Strike, a 4-year-old filly trained by Ken McPeek, finished six furlongs in 1:09.74 in moving her record on the Churchill main track to 6 for 9.

redboy More than 1 year ago
A front running Beast! A true warrior that will be missed . .Enjoy all the mares you can, you deserve it Shackleford
russell More than 1 year ago
I really wish he would race another year. He's such a good horse. A shame he hated the Spa. The Met Mile vs Caleb's Posse is still the race of the year. Insane race by two warriors.
richard montgomery More than 1 year ago
Way to go Shack! Gonna miss you, we need more like you stud!
Robert Smith More than 1 year ago
Congrats to Romans and connections for a job well done. Havent seen much metion here but nice ride by Jesus. Nursed fraction along comf. while saving enough horse for the lane. This horse has a huge heart , cant remeber him just spitting the bit. Jesus is an all round nice guy and its nice to see his talents but to good use.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
I am thrilled for Shackleford, Dale Romans and Shackleford's connections. Shackleford is a wonderful horse, I love watching him race - what an attractive horse - and it is totally appropriate that he is going out on top in championship form. He's given me lots of thrills in his racing career and I'm going to miss him very much. I wish Shack good fortune in his new life, and I hope he enjoys himself immensely. He's definitely earned a nice, fun retirement. Good luck, Shackleford! Thanks for all of the great memories.
Richard More than 1 year ago
I wrote a comment yesterday Friday Nov. 23, 2012 concerning The Clark. Shackleford has been my favorite horse since last years Triple Crown. I made a mistake and said that Stay Thirsty had been beat by Fort Larned in The Jockey Club Gold Cup. I am so sorry but I made a mistake, it was Flat Out that did not catch Stay Thirsty until they hit the wire by a head. Like I had said I am glad Repole gave Stay Thirsty another chance before sending him off to stud. He ran too good of race in The Jockey Club Gold Cup to let him go without a last race. Do not be surprised if Stay Thirsty beats Groupie Doll. That at least could be the exacta. As far as Shackleford I knew he would run a good race which he did. I always liked him as a router better and have liked Dale Romans as one of the great trainers, and that is saying a lot since there are many very good trainers. I am particularly glad for Dale Romans because being a hometown boy he always wanted to win The Clark and Shackleford did it. Castanon rode him the way he runs, not that Dominguez did not. A lot of handicappers are forgetting the bounce theory. It happens to all horses. Rarely does any horse win every race. I am glad for Shackleford and his connections and will being looking forward for some little Shacks in the future. Over $3,000,000 in earnings in a great four year career is plenty to be very proud of. A devoted fan!
PeterG More than 1 year ago
Calvin Borel is known for riding the rail but he had Take Charge Indy in the 3 path the whole race. The horse ran a longer race than Shackelford. And not only that, why let Shackleford run loose on the front with an easy pace? Move Take Charge Indy up and put some pressure on him. You can't let that horse run loose on the lead. Take Charge Indy had enough left in the tank to come back on Bourbon Courage and get second at the wire after Bourbon Courage appeared to pass him in the stretch. I'm guessing Take Charge Indy will race at Gulfstream in a month or so. If this didn't take too much out of him, he should be in top form at the track he won the Florida Derby at.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Hope Indy shows up at Gulfstream too. MMM is already here and I think Questing is recovering in the area as well. Nice post, PH!
ATOWN WHAT More than 1 year ago
Great horse, great trainer. I hope owners/trainers take their lead from Shackleford and Romans. After all, this is a sport we all watch for the thrill and entertainment of seeing these amazing animals battle anything thrown their way. Shackleford embodies this. 20 races over 2 years. 7, 8, 10, 12 furlongs? Don't matter. I am going to the lead, and you have to catch me. Amazing race and I was cheering like crazy. But you have to wonder if Romans is saying to himself today...(1) Why did I switch off from Jesus Castonon? and (2) Maybe Shack was best at routes all along.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Cheers to Shack and Romans on this special victory. I hadn't seen Shack race in person until the BC 3 weeks ago. And though Shack didn't have things go his way that day, he was still a sight to behold in the paddock, where he strutted and bucked around, a true athlete, a fighter claiming ownership of his surroundings. Attending the BC is so wonderful because a person is afforded the opportunity to see so many outstanding horses, many of these horses from different regions, horses that a person would not have been able to see otherwise. Even in the BC also-rans we find horses, like Shack, who redeem themselves with wins in major races. Shack's efforts in the BC and the Clark also highlight the importance of trip. While on the face of it, Shack stumbling and losing a few lengths at the start of the BC Dirt Mile wasn't all that big of a deal, it was a big deal to Shack because jumping out to an early lead is such a key for him performing well. The poor start placed Shack in a position he was unfamilair with, and did not allow him to take advantage of his main weaponry. The start also forced Shackleford wide, and on BC Saturday wide and off the lead wasn't the place to be.
DerbyAJ More than 1 year ago
This horse is a class act. Always showed up, and always gave his all. Congrats to Mr. Romans on a GREAT job of training what may turn out to be the horse that has the most successful career out of the 2011 Kentucky Derby field.