09/29/2011 12:27PM

Hoosier Park: Romans confident Shackleford will rebound in Indiana Derby

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Barbara D. Livingston
Shackleford ran poorly in the Travers, his most recent start before Saturday's Indiana Derby, but has rebounded from dull efforts previously to run a big race.

ANDERSON, Ind. – Shackleford has been in this situation before, and what followed was very good.

Shackleford was badly beaten in the Fountain of Youth in February before going on to prove himself as one of the best horses in the 3-year-old class. Although not all the circumstances are the same coming into the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park on Saturday, Shackleford once again is entered off a puzzling drubbing, having finished eighth by 22 lengths in his last race, the Aug. 27 Travers Stakes.

INDIANA DERBY: Handicapping preview and live video of Saturday's card »

“I really can’t explain either one of his bad races this year,” said his trainer, Dale Romans, who will send Shackleford here early Saturday from his main base at Churchill Downs in Louisville. “All I know is I think he’ll rebound with the kind of race he ran in the Florida Derby.”

Not only did the speedy Shackleford run a huge second at 68-1 in the Florida Derby after his poor effort in the Fountain of Youth, but he followed up with a fourth in the Kentucky Derby and a victory in the Preakness, putting himself in contention for divisional honors. Romans is hoping Shackleford can duplicate what the 2010 Preakness winner, Lookin At Lucky, pulled off last fall: an Indiana Derby win and an Eclipse Award.

“Obviously we’d like to add the Indiana Derby to his r é sum é , then have him run so big in the Breeders’ Cup that he’d have to be among the top 3-year-olds considered for the Eclipse,” said Romans, adding he is “still 50-50” regarding which BC race, the Dirt Mile or Classic, will be the year-end goal.

Owned by Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge, Shackleford is the probable favorite among a field of eight in the 17th running of the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby, the 12th and last race on a terrific Saturday card at Hoosier. First post is 12:30 p.m. Eastern, with the Indiana Derby going at 6:15.

With Jesus Castanon to ride, Shackleford will break from post 7 as the dominant speed in the 1 1/16-mile race at Hoosier, which has a dirt-only track that is seven furlongs in circumference.

“He could control it,” said Romans. “But it’s like I always say: If somebody else wants the lead, go on. We’ll do what we have to do.”

Clearly the main challenger is Caleb’s Posse, who drew right alongside in post 6 with Robby Albarado riding for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Caleb’s Posse fits the profile of a late-running sprinter, having won back-to-back Saratoga stakes using that style – ending, of course, with his memorable win over Uncle Mo on the Travers undercard – but he also won the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby in June.

“He’s shown himself to be a high-quality, versatile 3-year-old, that’s for sure,” said Von Hemel. “A lot of favorable factors went into us picking out this race for him, and obviously we’d like to see him keep running the way he has been.”

Romans, for one, believes Caleb’s Posse poses a legitimate threat.

“He’s an awfully fast horse, dangerous at any distance,” said Romans.

Nothing is etched in stone to say this 17th running of the Indiana Derby absolutely has to be won by Shackleford or Caleb’s Posse. Several others have shown flashes of ability, most notably Wilburn, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes last out at Parx Racing. Julien Leparoux picks up the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen.

The balance of the field is Decisive Moment, Little Drama, Populist Politics, Friends Place, and Windswept.

Friends Place, making his stakes debut, also is trained by Romans and will race coupled with Shackleford for wagering purposes, leaving a total of seven betting interests.

The Indiana Derby anchors easily the richest day of racing in the state each year, with purses totaling nearly $1.5 million on the day. The secondary feature is the Grade 2, $200,000 Indiana Oaks (race 11), while eight other stakes also are on tap. An all-stakes pick four (races 9-12) concludes the card.

The forecast for Saturday calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 54. HRTV will have coverage throughout the day with Peter Lurie as onsite host.

PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER

1

Friends Place 
ML: 9-5
M. Pedroza 
117 Lbs
D. Romans

1

Shackleford 
ML: 9-5
J. Castanon 
124 Lbs
D. Romans

1

Decisive Moment 
ML: 15-1
D. Centeno 
124 Lbs
J. Arias

1

Little Drama 
ML: 12-1
J. Sanchez 
119 Lbs
D. Fawkes

1

Populist Politics 
ML: 6-1
G. Melancon 
117 Lbs
T. Amoss

1

Windswept 
ML: 10-1
C. Lanerie 
117 Lbs
S. Margolis

1

Caleb's Posse 
ML: 2-1
R. Albarado 
124 Lbs
D. Von Hemel

1

Wilburn 
ML: 4-1
J. Leparoux 
124 Lbs
S. Asmussen