03/20/2017 12:35PM

Sparkman: Malagacy strikes for Shackleford

Coady Photography
Malagacy, by Shackleford, wins the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

One of the most significant long-term benefits of beginning my career in the horse business at Windfields Farm in the early 1970s was the opportunity to acquire first-hand knowledge some of the most significant contributors to the breed of the 20th century. In addition to the great stallions Northern Dancer and Halo, Windfields was home to a treasure trove of great broodmares, including Natalma (dam of Northern Dancer), Flaming Page (Nijinsky II), Sex Appeal (El Gran Senor, Try My Best), Fleur (The Minstrel), and Ballade (Glorious Song, Devil’s Bag, Saint Ballado), among many others.

Perhaps the best racemare among the many fillies Windfields bought at auction to add to their glittering collection of broodmares, however, was Deceit, a Prince John filly who inherited her rugged, solidly constructed physique from her champion granddam Conniver, by Discovery. Winner of the Grade 1-caliber Mother Goose, Acorn, and Matchmaker stakes in the era just before the graded race system, Deceit was not quite as good as champion Forward Gal at 2 and lost out narrowly as champion 3-year-old filly of 1971 to the California-based Turkish Trousers.

Deceit also was a very good but not quite great broodmare, and her undefeated fifth-generation descendant Malagacy, winner of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes last weekend at Oaklawn Park, could raise her family to new heights.

Deceit was, of course, bred to the gauntlet of Windfields’ great stallions of the era and produced Canadian champion 2-year-old filly Deceit Dancer to the cover of Vice Regent, German Group 3 winner Diana Dance to Northern Dancer, and American Grade 3 winner Nagurski to Nijinsky II, as well as Irish stakes winner Accomplice to the cover of Graustark.

Diana Dance established a successful branch of the family in Germany that includes German highweight Deva, by Platini, and Italian highweight Dschingis Secret, by Soldier Hollow. Deceit’s daughters Lady Hamilton, by The Minstrel, and Deceit Princess, by Vice Regent, are ancestors of graded winners.

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Malagacy’s line, though, descends through Diana Dance’s unraced full sister Slight Deception, by Northern Dancer, dam of stakes winner Cool Halo, by Halo, and her stakes-placed full sister Halo Dancer. The latter is dam of Canadian stakes winner Madame Treasurer, by Key to the Mint, and Maryland stakes winner Smart Halo, by Smarten.

Halo Dancer’s unraced daughter Classiest Carat, by Pleasant Colony, is dam of Canadian champion Impossible Time, by Not Impossible, as well as Malagacy’s unraced dam Classiest Gem, by Dehere, a $20,000 buy by John Trumbolovic at the 2006 Keeneland November sale.

Malagacy is the fifth foal bred by Trumbolovic out of Classiest Gem, and her eighth overall. Malagacy, who races for Sumaya U.S. Stable, was a $190,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale in 2016.

Classiest Gem's third foal, Classy Gem, by Perfect Soul, who was bred by Classiest Gem’s breeder, Charles Fipke, placed in stakes in Canada, but otherwise her foals have not been an inspiring bunch.

That reflects much of the credit for Malagacy’s brilliance onto his sire, Shackleford. The best of the 65 stakes winners sired by Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes winner Forestry, by Storm Cat, Shackleford was a classic example of the American miler type who managed to stretch his speed to win the 2011 Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles as well as the 2012 Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at a mile and Clark Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Shackleford flashed brilliant speed early at 3 when he led for all but the final stride of the Grade 1 Florida Derby, succumbing by a head to Dialed In.

Shackleford set a relatively slow pace in the Kentucky Derby but the distance was too far, and he finished fourth, beaten about four lengths by Animal Kingdom. Shackleford rated just off the pace of Flashpoint in the Preakness and poached just enough of a lead at the top of the stretch to hold off Animal Kingdom by a half-length.

Shackleford’s subsequent racing career was a bit in and out, but when at his best, he was brilliant, beating Caleb’s Posse and To Honor and Serve in the Met Mile and Take Charge Indy in the Clark.

Retired to Darby Dan Farm in 2013, his only stakes winner among his first 2-year-olds last year was Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity winner Wellabled (out of Expressive Diva, by In Excess), though he has four other stakes-placed runners from that first crop.

That is an encouraging start for a stallion who has not been as well-patronized as his best racing form deserves. A very strong, muscular, correct horse with the long angular hip characteristic of the best descendants of Storm Cat, Shackleford has 119 registered 3-year-olds of 2017 in his first crop, but only 89 foals in his second crop.