Shackleford reinforced trainer Dale Romans’ belief that his colt is a strong contender to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) April 23 when he turned in a strong five-furlong work over a sloppy Churchill Downs track April 23.
With former jockey Tammy Fox aboard, the 3-year-old son of Forestry owned by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge breezed five furlongs in 1:00 1/5, the fastest of nine works at the distance and more than two seconds faster than the second-best work. Shackleford covered the distance over the soggy track in fractional times of :12, :23.80, :35.60 and :47.80. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.
“I thought he worked as good as he could possibly work,” Romans said. “Now we’ve just got one more work next Saturday and hope we get in.”
Shackleford status for the May 7 Derby is uncertain since he may not have sufficient earnings in graded stakes races to make the 20-horse starting field. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters and in the case of an overflow field of entries, which seems likely this year and almost every year, preference is given to those with the highest earnings in graded stakes races. Shackleford has collected $212,000 in graded earnings, which places him 22nd on the current list of horses considered or possible for this year’s renewal of the Run for the Roses.
The $200,000-added The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (gr. II) at Churchill Downs on the track’s April 30 “Opening Night” card on April 30 could provide a final opportunity for Shackleford to boost those earnings, but Romans said it is not an option and Shackleford was not nominated to run.
“We’re not going to do anything crazy,” Romans said. “If it’s going to compromise our chances of winning (the Derby) we don’t want to be in there. If we don’t get in, we’ll wait for the Preakness.”
Romans found himself in a similar position last year with First Dude, who was training exceptionally well for Romans but was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because of insufficient graded stakes earnings. He ran a close second to eventual 3-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) two weeks after that Derby.
“It’s frustrating because I think a lot of people are going to run because they have the earnings and they can get in, whether they should or shouldn’t,” Romans said. “I think we’re a legitimate contender if we get in.”
Shackleford has a record of 2-1-0 in five races with overall earnings of $271,666.