Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge's homebred Shackleford concluded his racing career in grand style Friday, winning the Grade 1, $447,000 Clark Handicap over his home track at Churchill Downs, and the distinguished colt now heads to stud at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Kentucky."That's the way he's supposed to leave," an emotional Dale Romans said. "He was very impressive today. That's 'Shack' at his best."The versatile four-year-old compiled four stakes wins over his 20-race career, adding the 138th edition of the Clark to victories in the 2011 Preakness and this year's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes, and he battled top-class competition exclusively over the past two seasons, racing at distances from six furlongs to 1 1/2 miles. The courageous warrior saved plenty for his final performance.
Jesus Castanon guided the well-built chestnut straight to the front when the gates opened and it was all Shackleford from that point forward. He reached the quarter-mile pole in :24 1/5 with a 1 1/2-length lead and continued to show the way on a short advantage through splits of :48 3/5 and 1:12 2/5, with Take Charge Indy stalking in second the entire way.
Bourbon Courage advanced from midpack on the far turn, drawing on even terms with Take Charge Indy, and the duo tried to attack Shackleford entering the stretch drive. But Castanon still had more underneath him as Shackleford quickly spurted clear in midstretch, arriving at the mile mark in 1:36 3/5 with a 2 1/2-length lead. His rivals continued to fight to the wire, reducing the margin in deep stretch, but Shackleford held them safe in the final yards to score by a length.
"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 Churchill Downs in May. "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."
Shackleford completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.
Shackleford left the starting the gate as the near 3-1 second choice among nine rivals and paid $7.80, $4.80 and $3.40.
Take Charge Indy narrowly edged Bourbon Courage in a head-bobbing place photo, and it was a 6 3/4-length gap back to 5-2 favorite Lunar Victory in fourth. Mission Impazible, Cease, Fast Falcon and Eye of the Leopard rounded out the order of finish. Pool Play was withdrawn.
With Friday's $266,054 payday, Shackleford exits with a career bankroll of $3,090,101 from a 20-6-5-1 line.
The Kentucky-bred, who RNA'ed for $275,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, hails from the wonderful broodmare Oatsee, a stakes-placed daughter of Unbridled who has truly distinguished herself as a producer.
Multiple Grade 3 winner Baghdaria, a foal of 2003, was Oatsee's first stakes winner and Grade 1 heroine Lady Joanne followed a year later. In 2007, Oatsee produced Afleeting Lady, who notched third straight stakes win when capturing Thursday's Grade 2 Falls City at Churchill Downs. Shackleford came next and the three-year-old Stephanoatsee is the latest stakes-winning progeny.
Shackleford's fourth dam is the In Reality mare Taminette, who is a full sister to Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas winner and successful sire Known Fact, and a three-quarter sister to multiple Grade 1 star Tentam. Taminette produced multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Tappiano, and other notables in the family include Grade 1 victor and influential stallion Gone West.
Shackleford, who was originally scheduled to be retired following the November 3 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, stumbled badly at the start and was never a serious factor in the Dirt Mile, checking in seventh as one of the favorites. His fans will now get to fondly remember his career finale.
"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)," the trainer 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.
"He's a once-in-a-lifetime horse to train. You never know when you'll have another one like that, or if ever."