07/21/2011 3:14PM

Churchill Downs: Shackleford to work, then travel

Barbara D. Livingston
Shackleford, winner of the Preakness, will likely face Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice in the Haskell Invitational.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Shackleford is scheduled to have his final workout Sunday at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Haskell Invitational before being vanned Tuesday to Monmouth Park, trainer Dale Romans said Thursday from his summer base at Saratoga.

Shackleford, the 2011 Preakness winner, will be turning back to 1 1/8 miles in his first race since the Triple Crown series when he runs July 31 in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell at Monmouth in Oceanport, N.J.

With many top 3-year-olds such as Animal Kingdom and Nehro sidelined by injury, Romans believes Shackleford has become the leading candidate for a divisional championship.

“If we win the Haskell or the Travers, you’d have to think it’d be hard for somebody to overcome that and beat him for the title,” said Romans.

Shackleford sandwiched his 12-1 victory in the Preakness between a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a fifth-place finish in his most recent start, the June 11 Belmont Stakes.

Shackleford, owned by Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge, has had two Sunday works at Churchill since the Belmont, breezing a half-mile in 48.40 seconds on July 10 and five furlongs in a bullet 59.60 on July 17. Like the previous two, the coming Sunday work will be with Tammy Fox aboard.

“I’ll stay here at Saratoga and let Tammy handle everything,” said Romans, who is overseeing a 30-horse string at Saratoga. “Win or lose in the Haskell, the horse will come back here to Saratoga afterward and get ready for the Travers.”

Shackleford isn’t the only winner of a 2011 Triple Crown event likely to run in the Haskell: Ruler On Ice, based at Monmouth with trainer Kelly Breen, captured the Belmont at 24-1 in his last start.

Breen has told Monmouth officials he also likely will run Pants On Fire in the Haskell. Other prospective starters include Astrology, Coil, Concealed Identity, and JJ’s Lucky Train. Entries will be taken Thursday.

Monmouth announced Wednesday that the Haskell will be televised live by ABC Sports on a one-hour broadcast (5-6 p.m. Eastern).

Persuading set to step up

Meanwhile, Romans will be sending Persuading from Churchill to run Saturday as the likely favorite in the $50,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes some two hours away in Henderson, Ky. A field of nine fillies and mares will go 1 1/16 miles on the Ellis turf, with Kiss Mine and Ruthville appearing to be the main challengers.

Persuading, a 4-year-old by Broken Vow, has been in good form all year, finishing second or third in a number of bigger races.

“She’s been knocking on the door,” said Romans. “What we need is for her to go on and win a stakes. Saturday is the day for her to step up and do it.”

The Ellis Turf, the eighth of nine Saturday races, is the second of four stakes at the 31-day meet. First post is 12:50 p.m. Central. The Grade 3, $100,000 Gardenia, to be run Aug. 13, is the traditional meet highlight.