Trainer Dale Romans said May 29 that Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) winner Shackleford could run in the Whitney Handicap or Woodward Stakes, both grade I races at Saratoga Racecourse, en route to the ultimate goal of winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) in November.
In the one-mile Metropolitan, one of three grade I races on the May 28 Memorial Day card at Belmont Park, Shackleford led throughout and held off a tenacious challenge from Caleb’s Posse to win by a nose.
“I think that was one of the most important wins of my career,” said Romans, whose career victories have included wins in the Whitney and Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) with Roses In May, the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) with Kitten's Joy , the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with Shackleford, and the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) with Court Vision .
A son of Forestry who won the 2011 Preakness, Shackleford races for Mike Lauffer, Bill Cubbedge, and Phillips Racing Partnership.
“It’s a prestigious race for a stallion, and with his body of work, to put that on his resume puts him over the top,” Romans said of the Met Mile. “He should make a great stallion. He’s so sound, never had any issues. He’s got speed and endurance. It’s just a tough combination.”
Shackleford will enter stud at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington upon completion of his racing career.
The Metropolitan was the fourth meeting between Shackleford and Caleb’s Posse, who defeated the Met Mile winner in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
“We started with the Met Mile and worked back to the beginning of the year, and now we’ll start with the Breeders’ Cup and work back,” Romans said of the plan for Shackleford. “There’s nothing to say he won’t go a mile and an eighth. The Whitney is out there. So is the Woodward. There are some interesting things to think about.”
Romans, who had said before the Met Mile that it could end up being the “race of the year,” praised Shackleford for how he used his speed to put away To Honor and Serve and Jackson Bend into submission, and then held off a late bid from Caleb’s Posse.
“It looked like the momentum was going to take (Caleb’s Posse) by, but when he got next to him I think they could have gone around again and he wouldn’t have gotten by,” said Romans. “I think it’s a good rivalry we have going (with Caleb’s Posse). (Shackleford) beat all the best yesterday. The race lived up to the hype, which is rare in any sporting event.”
Meanwhile, Romans said his Belmont Stakes (gr. I) contender, Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, jogged May 29 under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar. Dullahan, who bypassed the Preakness after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), is scheduled to breeze at Belmont on June 2. He turned in a 1:43 one-mile breeze at Churchill Downs on May 26.
“We’ll start getting serious tomorrow,” said Romans. “The good thing with skipping the Preakness is that you do more when you train. When you go back in two weeks and back in three weeks, it limits you to be ready for the mile and a half. We’ve tried doing some old school stuff, like longer, slower gallops and longer works. We’ll see if it pays off.”