Shackleford and Jesus Castanon take Preakness Stakes.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Shackleford and Jesus Castanon take Preakness Stakes.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Shackleford Tames Animal Kingdom in Preakness

Late charge leaves Derby winner a half-length short; Astrology finishes third.

Shackleford  held off a late-charging Animal Kingdom in the stretch to win the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) by a half-length.

The son of Forestry is a homebred for Mike Lauffer and William Cubbedge. He is trained by Dale Romans and was ridden by Jesus Castanon.

As anticipated, the pace was much faster than in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), where Shackleford  led the field at Churchill Downs through early fractions of :23.74, :48.63, and 1:13.40. Shackleford wound up finishing a respectable fourth behind Animal Kingdom , Nehro, and Mucho Macho Man .

On May 21 at Pimilco, however, a solid pace was set by Flashpoint, a son of Pomeroy, who clicked off the first three-quarters of a mile in :22.69, :46.87, and 1:12.01.

Shackleford sat behind Flashpoint just a couple of jumps after the break and stayed there through the first turn and all the way down the backstretch. Stalking behind the front-runners were Midnight Interlude and Dance City. The winner took the lead going into the second turn and swung into the stretch about three paths off the rail.

2011 Preakness Stakes Slide Show
2011 PreaknessView Photos

Along the inside came Astrology , who hooked up with Shackleford briefly and then began to fade as the 2-1 favorite Animal Kingdom came roaring down the middle of the track. Shackleford kicked away from Animal Kingdom’s challenge and stopped the clock in 1:56.47 for the 1 3/16-mile race. The record in the Preakness is 1:53 2/5, held jointly by Louis Quatorze (1996) and Tank’s Prospect (1985). Animal Kingdom's game second ended hopes of a Triple Crown winner in 2011.

"I’ve won some big races, but none as exciting as that one," said Romans, who got his trainer's license when he was 18 and won his first race in 1987at Turfway Park.

He said Shackleford seemed a little hot before the race but obviously it didn't take anything out of him.

"I was more concerned if he was going to hang on. It was fast, but he kind of pulled everyone else out of the race. He has a high cruising speed. We weren’t worried about slowing it down as much as getting him into a good rhythmic pace and let him keep on going."

Castanon also said he wasn't worried when his mount seemed hot before the race or about the changing pace that unfolded during the first half of the Preakness.

"He’s a good horse and able to handle it," he said. "A horse like this can go any kind of speed. I felt somebody coming at the sixteenth pole. I knew that Animal Kingdom was the only horse who was able to come get me. It's amazing."

Animal Kingdom’s trainer Graham Motion said his horse ran a huge race.

“I kind of thought for an instant that he might get there, but I wasn’t sure," he said. "They ran quick early. That was fine. I think they just slowed it down in the middle of the race and that really helped the winner.

"Johnny said it was just a different scenario today because he was that far back that he got a lot of dirt in his face and kind of struggled with it a little bit. I can’t believe what Johnny weaved through the last three-eighths of a mile. But he was coming and coming. I cannot believe to get that close; I’m not sure what is better, if we were that close or to be beaten further.”

Jockey John Velazquez said he did have to take Animal Kingdom further back than he wanted.

"When I wanted him to go, he got dirt kicked in his face," he said. "So then I had to pull him farther back than I wanted him to be. By the time I had the chance to go, he was coming, but it was too late. He came out of the race great. Unfortunately this is part of the business."

Motion said Animal Kingdom may start in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 11 if he comes out of the Preakness in good shape.

"I heard Barry mention it and I think Johnny feels strongly that it would suit him," Motion said, referring to Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor International and manager of the partnership that owns Animal Kingdom. "We’ll see how he came out of it. He’s got two really tough races, but if he comes out of this one the way he came out of the Derby, I don’t know why we wouldn’t take a shot."

Nick Zito, trainer of 9-2 second choice Dialed In, who finished fourth, said the fast opening quarter and slower subsequent quarters didn't help his horse either.

"The 22-and-change was great and then they went in 1:12," Zito said. "They went fast enough early but then they slowed down. It didn’t work out. He still came with his run, like he always does. He’s a gallant horse."

Dialed In mised out on a $5.5 million bonus he would have earned for winning two Derby prep races at Gulfstream Park—in his case the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby (gr. I)—and the Preakness. The bonus was offered for the first time this year by MI Developments, which owns both Gulfstream Park and Pimlico. Shackleford earned a $500,000 bonus on top of the winner's share of $600,000 courtesy of the Preakness 5.5 incentive program.

Finishing in fifth was Dance City, followed by Mucho Macho Man , King Congie, Mr. Commons, Isn't He Perfect, Concealed Identity, Norman Asbjornson, Sway Away, Midnight Interlude, and Flashpoint.

Shackleford paid $27.20, $10.20, and $6.80. Animal Kingdom paid $4.20 and $3.60, and Astrology paid $8. A $2 exacta paid $114.80 and a $2 trifecta paid $1,401.80.

Lauffer and Cubbedge named Shackleford after the southernmost barrier island off the North Carolina coast, which has been home to a colony of feral horses for hundreds of years. It is a place they frequently visit.

The colt is out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee, which the partners purchased in 2006 for $135,000. The week they purchased Oatsee at the Keeneland January sale, one of her daughters—Baghdaria, by Royal Academy—won the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III).  Another of Oatsee’s daughters, Lady Joanne, would go on to win the Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Shackleford was the last foal Oatsee produced before Lauffer and Cubbedge sold her in foal to A.P. Indy for $1.55 million in 2008.

Lauffer and Cubbedge liked Shackleford and wanted to keep him, but they are commercial breeders and cash flow is important. So they put him in the 2009 Keeneland September sale with a $275,000 reserve. When the last live bid came in at $250,000, Shackleford became the first colt the partners ever bought back. In the past, they only would take back fillies due to their residual value for breeding.

Shackleford is Lauffer’s first classic winner but the second with whom he has an association. In late 2008, Lauffer purchased a half-interest in a promising 2-year-old filly named Rachel Alexandra for $500,000. After Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I)  Lauffer and Dolphus Morrision, her breeder, sold the filly to the late Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick for $10 million. Rachel Alexandra won the 2009 Preakness and was later crowned Horse of the Year.