Caleb's Posse Soars in Dirt Mile

Caleb's Posse Soars in Dirt Mile
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Caleb's Posse flies home late to win the Dirt Mile.
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Like he was shot out of a cannon, Caleb's Posse   rocketed past Shackleford   in the stretch and romped to a four-length victory in the $909,000 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).

Sent off at 6-1, the 3-year-old son of Posse   notched his fifth stakes win of the year for Remington Park-based trainer Donnie Von Hemel and owners Don McNeil and Everett Dobson. Rajiv Maragh guided the colt to victory in a time of 1:34.59.

McNeil bred the horse in Kentucky. It was the first Breeders’ Cup score for all of the connections.

“You could see coming down the stretch that he had dead aim on the leader," said Von Hemel. "The last sixteenth of a mile, we just got to celebrate.

"It’s the biggest (victory of my career), no doubt; a million dollar race on Breeders’ Cup day. If my chest could swell any bigger, it probably wouldn’t fit here. I’m so proud of him, he’s such a neat little horse, and he comes to run on those one-turn races, man."

Caleb’s Posse was next to last in the field of nine for much of the way, but began to make his winning outside move when approaching the eighth pole. Preakness (gr. I) winner Shackleford, who took over from pacesetter The Factor   at the top of the lane, was still running well after carrying a 2 1/2-length down the stretch, but he was no match for Caleb’s Posse. The colt gobbled up ground from the far outside, reached Shackleford at the sixteenth pole, and coasted to a no-doubt-about-it score.

"We’ve had luck taking this horse back and making one late run with him, so you stick with what’s successful," Maragh said. "To win a race of this magnitude is special, really special.”

Shackleford, who was drifting out at mid-stretch, settled for second under Jesus Castanon, 1 3/4 lengths in front of 30-1 longshot Tres Borrachos. Trappe Shot   was fourth. Wilburn  , the 5-2 favorite, gave way after an inside trip and finished seventh.

The Factor, who faded to eighth, sped through an opening quarter-mile in :22.49 and the half in :45.36 before Shackleford headed him leaving the turn while completing six furlongs in 1:09.52.

Little known at the start of the season, Caleb’s Posse has defeated some of the top horses in the country. He won the Smarty Jones Stakes in January at Oaklawn Park, then four starts later bagged the Ohio Derby (gr. III) at Thistledown. He then took the Amsterdam (gr. II) and King’s Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga. In that latter race he defeated champion Uncle Mo by a nose. He entered the Dirt Mile off a third-place finish in the Oct. 1 Indiana Derby (gr. II).

“You guys will have to decide, but I think you can probably make a case for champion sprinter this year," Von Hemel told reporters. "I look at this one-turn mile as a sprint. He’s got three great wins this year sprinting, in my opinion. I’m going to put him out there as a possibility.”

Caleb’s Posse improved to 8-2-2 from 16 starts with earnings of $1,153,379. He is out of the Slewacide mare Abbey’s Missy.

The winner paid $15.60, $7, and $4.80.

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