10/05/2008 12:00AM

Thorn Song never looks back

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The strategy could not have been any simpler. Dale Romans instructed jockey Robby Albarado to grab the lead aboard Thorn Song and keep going as far as he could, a plan that worked brilliantly Saturday in the 23rd running of the Grade 1, $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

Thorn Song, a 5-year-old gray horse by Unbridled's Song, shook off a midstretch bid from War Monger and finished clear of a belated run from Shakis to capture the Shadwell Mile by 1 1/4 lengths as the lukewarm favorite. He returned $8.40 after finishing in 1:34.97 over a firm turf.

"We just decided to go and see what happened," said Romans, who trains Thorn Song for the Zayat Stables. "He can sustain that run for a mile. I know he went pretty fast, but you could tell he was happy out there."

Romans, based primarily in Kentucky, said Thorn Song most likely will accept the automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Mile, which he earned through the Shadwell's Win and You're In provision.

Thorn Song was coming off two respectable losses in graded turf stakes at Saratoga. Before that, he won the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs, defeating Einstein.

"He's got a high cruising speed," said Albarado, who on Friday won the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland aboard Dream Empress. "I felt like he was doing it well within himself, and he just sprinted home."

Shakis, third in the 2007 Shadwell, was up in the final jump to snatch second by a nose from War Monger, who had loomed the most serious stretch to Thorn Song. The mile distance was "just too short" for Shakis, said jockey Rafael Bejarano. "The horse on the lead had no pressure. You can't have a good horse on the lead without any pressure."

For Albarado, the victory was his second in the Shadwell, Keeneland's richest fall race. He also won four years ago aboard Nothing to Lose.

Ontrack attendance on a gorgeous fall afternoon was 19,535.