Classic winner Shackleford breezed five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 4/5 at his
Churchill Downs base on Sunday, pleasing trainer Dale Romans in his last major
move ahead of Saturday's Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont.
Shackleford will be returning to the scene of his victory in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, which was contested over the Kelso's one-mile distance in May. The flashy chestnut has raced only once since, finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on August 5 at Saratoga. He originally was pointed toward Saratoga's Grade 1 Forego on September 1 but bypassed the race after developing a cough.
Shackleford's time ranked as the best of 18 works at the distance by a full second. The second-best clocking of 1:01 4/5 was turned in by Grade 2 veteran Joyful Victory.
"It was as good of a work as he's ever had, and we did the right thing by skipping the Forego," said Romans, who trains the chestnut for Michael Lauffer, W.D. Cubbedge and the Phillips Racing Partnership. "We're looking for a big effort from him."
In other Super Saturday news, trainer Michael Hushion reports that Grade 2-winning sophomore The Lumber Guy is set for the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational, which will be his first start in 4 1/2 months and first foray against his elders.
After winning the Grade 2 Jerome in April at Aqueduct, The Lumber Guy faded to sixth in Belmont's Grade 2 Peter Pan in May, prompting Hushion and owner Barry Schwartz to freshen the New York-bred.
The Lumber Guy, who worked five furlongs in a bullet :58 2/5, handily, on Thursday, will be cutting back from 1 1/8 miles to six furlongs in the Vosburgh.
"My opinion is that he fits (in the Vosburgh)," Hushion said. "I don't know
how it will set up, but I think he'll be close to the pace. I don't know if
he'll be the pace or not. He's very sharp right now. We'll see how fast and how
far he can run. They're nice horses, but I don't know if the Breeders' Cup
winner is in (the Vosburgh)."
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride The Lumber Guy, Hushion added.
The Steve Asmussen barn, which sent out Dust and Diamonds to score in Saturday's Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap, will attempt to land another Belmont graded sprint stakes next week with Zayat Stables' Justin Phillip in the Vosburgh.
On Sunday, Justin Phillip breezed four furlongs over Belmont's good main track in :49 4/5 as he prepares for his first start since finishing second by a neck in the Vanderbilt.
In his two prior starts, Justin Phillip he was third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, in the Mr. Prospector in July at Monmouth Park and runner-up by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 2 True North Handicap in June at Belmont.
"He's been performing right there and has been getting beat right on the jump, not quite getting there," said Toby Sheets, Asmussen's Belmont-based assistant. "We just need luck to go our way a little bit. (Saturday) would be an awesome day for that."