Participating in an incredible seven Grade 1 events in a single season, Shackleford turned back Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom to win his Classic, the Preakness Stakes, at 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico. By the end of the year, however, trainer Dale Romans had begun to turn back his star in distance, and the decision proved a wise one as Shackleford placed second in the one-turn Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Churchill Downs.
Shackleford put in his final preparation for the Carter on April 1, working four furlongs in 47.20 seconds at Gulfstream Park.
“The next couple races are going to be short,” Romans said. “The Carter is seven-eighths and then he’ll go back in the [Grade 1, $750,000] Met Mile [May 28 at Belmont Park]. We’re just going to give him a chance to be a middle-distance horse. He ran very good in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. That’s good on his resume for his stallion prospects. We’ll decide what direction to go in after the Met Mile.”
The stallion prospects are now an important part of Shackleford’s future. Last week, owners Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge sold a share of the son of Forestry to the historic Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, where he will begin stud duty in 2013.
Shackleford’s speed, tenacity and iron-horse ability to withstand a rigorous campaign make him enormously attractive as a stallion prospect.
“He’s just a beautifully made horse,” said Robert Hammond, general manager at Darby Dan. “Dale Romans says he’s tough as nails. He ran the hardest campaign of every 3-year-old last year. He took on every horse and his racetrack earnings showed it.”
Shackleford has earned $1,985,803 with three wins and four seconds from 13 starts.
“The Met Mile would be the perfect race for him,” Hammond said, “and obviously he ran very well in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but as far as a stallion, I think he’s already made himself.”
Hammond pointed out that Shackleford will be the first Classic winner to stand stud at Darby Dan since Roberto.
If all goes well, Shackleford will race through another Grade 1 campaign, with a possible stop this summer in the seven-furlong Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga Race Course on his way to another run in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Because of his routine appearances in the biggest races of the year, his fighting style, and his hambone personality (he loves to roll around in a dirt pit on the backstretch after morning gallops) Shackleford has developed a large following. The colt’s Facebook page had 2,817 fans as of Tuesday.
“He has a big fan club, and a lot of people are always contacting us about him,” Romans said. “He definitely has the biggest fan club of any horse I’ve ever had.”
The trainer expressed no concern that Shackleford has not won since the Preakness. The colt is a big presence and threat in every race he appears in.
“I don’t feel frustrated with him,” Romans said. “He can do anything. He’s danced every dance. He’s been beaten a few times in unfortunate circumstances, but it’s just racing. I wish I had a lot more to frustrate me like him.”