Shackleford closed out his stellar racing career on a winning note on Friday, wiring a competitive field in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The popular 4-year-old chestnut son of Forestry out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.12 over a fast track in defeating Take Charge Indy to give jockey Jesus Castanon, trainer Dale Romans and owners Mike Lauffer, Bill Cubbedge and Phillips Racing Partnership their first triumph in the Clark – Churchill Downs’ most lucrative race of its annual Fall Meet. The race also allowed Shackleford to go out a winner, following an unplaced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Santa Anita.
“That’s the way he’s supposed to leave,” said an emotional Romans, the Louisville native who undoubtedly will be a finalist for North America’s Champion Trainer honors after collecting his ninth Grade 1 win of the year. “He was very impressive today. That’s ‘Shack’ at his best.”
When starter Scott Jordan sprang open the gates, Shackleford broke on top from post three and took the field of nine through fractions of :24.31, :48.65 and 1:12.69. Take Charge Indy was reserved in second and prompted the winner while racing four wide on the final turn, but Shackleford kicked on and increased his advantage in midstretch. He drifted out in the final yards, but easily held off Take Charge Indy, who out-finished Bourbon Courage by a head for second.
“I know what he likes to do and I put him in a spot where he wanted to be,” said Castanon, who was reunited with Shackleford for the first time since his victory in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard. “He finished up strong. Once they let me open up, I knew he was going to last. I could have gone around again and I don’t think they would have gotten me. He would have just kept going.”
Sent postward as the 120-pound starting high weight and 2.90-1 second choice in the betting, Shackleford returned $7.80, $4.80 and $3.40. Take Charge Indy, who carried 117 pounds under Calvin Borel at odds of 5.80-1, paid $6.80 and $4.40. Bourbon Courage, also at 5.80-1 and carrying 117 pounds, paid $4 with Leandro Goncalves aboard in third.
The Clark was the third Grade 1 victory of Shackleford’s 20-race career. A year ago, he gave Romans his first triumph in a classic when victorious by a half-length over Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Preakness Stakes (G1). Earlier this year, Shackleford beat Caleb’s Posse by a nose in a stellar renewal of the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park.
The $266,054 first prize pushed his career bankroll to $3,090,101. He won six of his 20 starts with five seconds and one-third.
“That’s how we expected him to run in the Breeders’ Cup (Dirt Mile) and it wasn’t his fault that he stumbled (at the start),” Romans said. “That’s the way I wanted to see him end his career. I’m very proud of him. This win was for him. It put him back in the winner’s circle before he left and let everyone know he’s still the same Shackleford he used to be.”
In the coming days, Shackleford will be retired to Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Ky. for stud duty.
“He’s been very sound throughout his whole career and we’ve never ducked anyone,” said Lauffer, his co-owner and breeder. “All his races have pretty much been Grade 1 or Grade 2 races and he’s as good right now as he’s ever been.”
–Churchill Downs Communications contributed to this report.