05/12/2011 2:23PM

Preakness: Shackleford eligible for $550,000 bonus

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Dialed In will be shooting for a $5.5 million bonus in the Preakness Stakes on May 21 at Pimlico, but not until very recently did Dale Romans, the trainer of Shackleford, realize that his colt is in line for smaller, albeit significant, bonus as well.

“I didn’t know about it until yesterday,” Romans said Thursday on a national teleconference. “It’s a little more incentive to go there.”

Yes, by virtue of merely running in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, then finishing second in the Florida Derby, Shackleford is eligible for a $550,000 bonus in the Preakness. That means that both he and Dialed In stand to win more money should they capture the Preakness than would Animal Kingdom, who just outran those two rivals, and 16 others, in the Kentucky Derby.

PREAKNESS STAKES 2011: Contender profiles, news updates, video, and odds »

The bonus for which Shackleford is eligible is called the XpressBet .55, “a consolation prize of $550,000 ($500,000 to the owner and $50,000 to the trainer) to be awarded to the winner of the 2011 Preakness,” a press release last fall announcing the bonuses said. To be eligible for that smaller bonus, a horse had to run in “one of the initial qualifying races” – in Shackleford’s case, the Fountain of Youth – and then finish in the top three in the Santa Anita Derby or Florida Derby.

All the bonus money was put up by MI Developments, the parent company of Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita, and Pimlico.

Shackleford finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, 3 3/4 lengths behind Animal Kingdom, after leading until midstretch. He finished nearly four lengths in front of Dialed In, who wound up eighth in the field of 19.

“I thought at the eighth pole he was going to win,” Romans said. “He just couldn’t hang on the last sixteenth of a mile.”

In the Preakness, Shackleford will be shortening up a sixteenth of a mile, to 1 3/16 miles from the Derby’s 1 1/4 miles.

“He ran a good mile and a quarter,” Romans said. “Only three horses beat us.”

Romans said Shackleford has done well since the Derby.

“A race like that can knock a horse out of the feed tub, but he’s been cleaning his feed tub, been bucking and playing,” Romans said. “He was bucking in the middle of his gallop today.”

Romans, who is based at Churchill Downs, said he would not do anything extensive in his training with Shackleford, being as there are a mere 14 days between the Derby and Preakness. Shackleford is scheduled to travel to Maryland next week.

“With this horse, I’ll take it easy. He’s dead fit,” said Romans, who finished second in last year’s Preakness with First Dude.

In other Preakness news, trainer John Shirreffs confirmed that Mr. Commons is an intended starter, and said that Victor Espinoza would have the mount.

Espinoza rode Midnight Interlude in the Derby, but trainer Bob Baffert said on Wednesday that Martin Garcia would replace Espinoza for the Preakness.

Mike Smith rode Mr. Commons to a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, the last start for Mr. Commons, but Smith will ride Jerome runner-up Astrology in the Preakness.

Mr. Commons was scheduled to work at Hollywood Park on Friday morning before traveling to Maryland next week.

As of Thursday, a field of 13 was expected for the Preakness, which is limited to 14 runners. Entries for the Preakness will be taken, and post positions drawn, on Wednesday.

– additional reporting by Steve Andersen