By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Today at Pimlico, Shackleford powered to a win over 2-1 favorite Animal Kingdom to deny the Kentucky Derby winner a chance at the Triple Crown.
Sitting just behind a pace of :22.69 and :46.87 set by front runner Flashpoint, Shackleford put him away before the second turn and held off the late-charging Animal Kingdom by one-half length to take the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Shackleford and Jesus Castanon slowed down the pace during the middle of the race with a six-furlong time of 1:12.01, helping leave enough in the Derby fourth-place finisher's tank to get the 1 3/16 mile of the Preakness in 1:56.47.
It was the first Preakness victory for Castanon, Louisville-based trainer Dale Romans and co-owners Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge, who kept Shackleford as a yearling when he didn't reach a reserve of $275,000 at the Keeneland 2009 Yearling Sale. The highest bid offered was $250,000.
By winning the Preakness, connections picked up a $500,000 bonus. With the winner's share of $600,000 from the million-dollar purse, Shackleford earned his owners $1.1 million. Dialed In, who finished fourth after trailing the field by multiple lengths with Animal Kingdom in the early going, failed to capitalize on the opportunity to garner a $5 million bonus had he won.
Astrology finished third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Shackleford. Dialed In was another 2 1/2 lengths back at the finish. The remaining order of finish was Dance City, Mucho Macho Man, King Congie, Mr. Commons, Isn’t He Perfect, Concealed Identity, Norman Absjornson, Sway Away, Midnight Interlude and Flashpoint.
Shackleford was sent off at 12-1 odds and paid $27.20 to win, $10.20 to place and $6.80 to show. The $2 exacta with Animal Kingdom paid $114.80. The $1 trifecta anchored by Astrology resulted in a $700.90 reward, and the $1 superfecta returned $3,106.30.
The final time was three seconds off the track record of 1:53.46 (Curlin, 2007) and/or 1:53 2/5 (Louis Quatorze, 1996; Tank's Prospect, 1985). Times at the track for the last two days weren’t considered fast.
Flashpoint, who was expected to set the pace, did just that. Shackleford sat one-half length behind him down the stretch the first time, around the first turn and through the backstretch. Midnight Interlude, Astrology and Dance City, other speed influences in the race, stalked in third, fourth and fifth.
Entering the far turn, Shackleford put away Flashpoint, while Midnight Interlude began backing up dramatically. Astrology stayed toward the lead, and Dance City persevered.
As he hit the top of the stretch, Shackleford had established he was clearly the best of the early speed. He held off Astrology at about the eighth pole, and the remaining question was whether he could stave off the closers. Animal Kingdom proved to be the best of those after freeing himself from traffic. Dialed In mounted a rally, but it was a belated one.
Shackleford, a chestnut son of Forestry, is out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee. He was bred in Kentucky by the owners. Going into the Preakness, he'd won two races from six starts, with a second. He broke his maiden in his second start at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27 and won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5. He faltered in the Grade II Fountain of Youth won by Soldat but came back to finish second to Dialed In at 68-1 odds in the Grade I Florida Derby.
After a five-week break, Shackleford set the pace in the Kentucky Derby and led through nine furlongs before Animal Kingdom took command. He lost second by a length to Nehro, who edged Mucho Macho
Man. Nehro skipped the Preakness and awaits the Belmont Stakes three weeks hence.
Mucho Macho Man was the greatest disappointment of the day after being made the 9-2 third choice by bettors. Dialed In was second preference at 4-1.
Dale Romans (winning trainer, Shackleford) – “I’ve won some big races, but none as exciting as that one. He’s been like that (hot) before all his races. He was a little hot, but he wasn’t acting that bad and it’s a hot day. It didn’t take much 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.”
Jesus Castanon (winning, jockey, Shackleford) – “Its amazing. He was a little hot in the beginning before in the post parade, but he was able to calm down. He’s a good horse and able to handle it. 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.”
Graham Motion (trainer, Animal Kingdom, 2nd) – “He ran huge. It’s tough to come that close, but he ran a huge race. I kind of thought for an instant that he might get there, but I wasn’t sure. It’s kind of ironic because Dale led me down to the winner’s circle after the Derby. They ran quick early. That was fine. I think they just slowed it down in the middle of the race and that really helped that horse.
“I had my doubts (about catching Shackleford). I felt like he was coming and coming, but I had a feeling that he wasn’t going to get there. But he ran huge. I’m thrilled with how he ran. 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. He ran a huge race. 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.
“ Shoot, we won the Derby and we just got beat in the Preakness. I would love to win a Triple Crown, as much for me as for everybody else. There is so much pressure to do that because it would be so good for the game. But it wasn’t meant to be. The horse ran a great race. He did nothing wrong. I think the horse ran huge. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was the Triple Crown, you’d be thrilled that he ran so well.”
“I couldn’t see much, but I could see that when they turned down the backstretch Johnny was having to niggle him along a little bit just to stay up. Probably the difference of getting dirt in his face and a different scenario. The horse did nothing wrong. The horse ran a great race. Johnny rode a great race.
“(The Belmont) definitely will be a possibility, as long as he’s OK. I heard Barry (Irwin) mention it and I think Johnny feels strongly that it would suit him. 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.”
John Velazquez (jockey, Animal Kingdom, 2nd) – “We were just too far back. When I wanted him to go, he got dirt kicked in his face. 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.”
Steve Asmussen (trainer, Astrology, 3rd) – “He ran a good race. Hats off to the winner. He entered into the 3-year-old picture a little late this year. Of course, we hoped to win but he competed well and ended up third. He’s been playing catch-up all year, and today was a measure of that. We’ll evaluate and go from here.”
Mike Smith jockey, Astrology, 3rd) – “He ran dynamite. He ran great today. I wish I had a better post. I tried to let him stretch his legs a little because he has such a big stride. He ran a great race for me today.”
Nick Zito (trainer, Dialed In, 4th) – “He got a little cut behind, but not bad. The 22-and-change was great and then they went in 1:12. They went fast enough early but then they slowed out. It didn’t work out. He still came with his run, like he always does. He’s a gallant horse.”
Julien Leparoux (jockey, Dialed In, 4th) – “I finally got through around the second turn and he was getting ready to make his run, but it just wasn’t enough. He ran good, but his style sometimes works against him.”
Todd Pletcher (trainer, Dance City, 5th) – “I thought he ran a creditable race. He loomed up and I kind of got excited, and then he flattened out down the lane. Ramon said he galloped out real strong and he was hard to pull up afterward, so I can’t say it was the distance so much. He’s still a young horse.”
Ramon Dominguez (jockey, Dance City, 5th) – “I had a great journey. I kept trying to save ground the last part, but I can’t complain about the trip. It was a good trip.”
Kathy Ritvo (trainer, Mucho Macho Man, 6th) – “Rajiv didn’t think he was getting hold of the track today. He’s been right there every single time, so I was surprised. I’m going to watch it again, and again and again, then take a look at the horse. He was doing fabulous.”
Rajiv Maragh (jockey, Mucho Macho Man, 6th) – “Everything went good during the race. We tried, but it just did not come together today.”
Tom Albertrani (trainer, King Congie, 7th) – “I thought he tried his best. It looked like he was making a nice move, putting himself in contention about the half-mile pole. It looked like he was going to cruise right up to the leaders at one point and then was kind of spinning his wheels just past the eighth-pole. Robby thought he ran a good race and he had a lot of horse going into the turn, but maybe the distance got the best of him today.”
Robby Albarado (jockey, King Congie, 7th) – “We got squeezed a little at the start. He started to move a little around the turn, but then he flattened out.”
John Shirreffs (trainer, Mr. Commons , 8th) – “Victor thought he had a clean trip, but we expected him to run much better than he did. He had been training super. We’ll just go home, regroup and see what’s next.”
Victor Espinoza (jockey, Mr. Commons, 8th) – “He took the first turn and saved ground very nice, and it kind of opened up for me, but the last eighth of a mile he was kind of making a little noise. I think he’ll do better on the turf. He makes moves like a good turf horse.”
Doodnauth Shivmangal (trainer, Isn’t He Perfect, 9th) – “He’s a good horse. He tries very hard. He didn’t sleep well here and he wasn’t eating right, but I thought he ran a good race. Prado said at one time he was third or fourth and I saw him make one heck of a move. I’m pleased with the way he ran.”
Edgar Prado (jockey, Isn’t He Perfect, 9th) – “We had a good race today. For a while, I thought we were going to hit the board. He raced pretty good, just not quite good enough.”
Eddie Gaudet (trainer, Concealed Identity, 10th) – “We placed him in this race ambitiously. He ran a decent race and I am satisfied with his effort.”
Sheldon Russell (jockey, Concealed Identity, 10th) – “He ran good. He was in a good spot. I still had some horse turning for home, but he just didn’t kick in like the others.”
Chris Grove (trainer, Norman Asbjornson, 11th) – “I don’t know what happened. He ran an honest race and I’m not upset. He came back good. He just wasn’t good enough.”
Julian Pimentel (jockey, Norman Asbjornson, 11th) – “My horse ran good. I thought I was going to get the money, but it seems like his breathing was not that great today. Near the three-eighths pole he started to make a little noise. Unfortunately that ended his day.”
Jeff Bonde (trainer, Sway Away, 12th) – “I’m very disappointed with the outcome. The jockey told me he was trying to get away from the dirt and it wasn’t working. He was just weaving back and forth most of the way.”
Garrett Gomez (jockey, Sway Away, 12th) – “Nothing much to say. We didn’t break well and he didn’t put in any kind of run. We were just there. I have nothing to complain about.”
Bob Baffert (trainer, Midnight Interlude, 13th) – “My horse was in a great spot. He was right there. He just quit. He looked fine coming back. He must be a turf horse. I was very disappointed in him, the way he ran. He gets off the trail here. We’ll try grass with him next time. I think (Shackleford) ran a game race. For as hard as he ran in the Derby and to come back, Dale did a fantastic job with him. I’m happy for Dale because the poor guy ran second last year with First Dude and it looked like he had it won. He did a great training job. He’s a good guy. I’m happy for him.”
Martin Garcia (jockey, Midnight Interlude, 13th) – “ My horse was in perfect position and he was clear. He didn’t try. He didn’t handle the track. He is a better horse than that. Today was not his day. He finished safe and we’ll go forward.”
Wesley Ward (trainer, Flashpoint, 14th) – “He ran a great race, but I think this confirms that he’s a sprinter. Cornelio said seven-eighths or a mile would be stretching it even.”
Cornelio Velasquez (jockey, Flashpoint, 14th) – “It was not our day today. He tried early, but he just didn’t have it.”
POST RACE NEWS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT (COURTESY OF ASAP Sports)
Q. You've been at this quite a while, Dale, and you've got racing in your blood, what's it mean to win a Triple Crown race?
DALE ROMANS: It's unbelievable. It's phenomenal. It shows that if anybody that gets started in the horse business can do this, because Lord knows, 25 years ago nobody thought I'd sit up here and talk about a Classic race. We had a lot of horses, and some were the cheapest of the cheap.
My brother and I were reminiscing today about some of the horses and how bad they were. It just shows that if you keep doing it long enough and you get the right horses in your hands, anybody can do it.
It's a huge effort. From the time that the horse was born on the farm, the people who foaled him, to the training center, and they brought him to my stable, and all the grooms and exercise riders, and Faustino, and the exercise boys that had him in Florida.
It takes so many people, and so many things have to go right. It's a huge accomplishment for Tammy that breezes him every morning and lets me leave town every winter with all the horses while she takes care of the kids.
It just takes everybody working together to get this done, and it's unbelievable when it all comes together for success.
Q. Can you describe your emotions after two years ago when you sold Rachel Alexandra two weeks prior to the Preakness, only to then watch her win here in Baltimore, and now here you are at the winner's dais with Dale and Bill as the Preakness winners?
MICHAEL LAUFFER: Two years ago, even though I didn't own Rachel anymore, we came up to the Preakness to watch her. We were just so proud of her. She was just a special horse that comes around once‑in‑a‑lifetime; and Shackleford ‑‑ Shackleford, I'm probably a little closer to Shackleford because we bred him and raised him, and we've been with him for three years now. We're just so proud of him.
Dale Romans and his staff, and Jesus did a great job. We've all stuck together with this horse. We had a bad race or two, but we stuck with our team and it paid off.
Q. Dale, as a lifelong horseman, tell us what you think your dad would be thinking if he were here to see this with you today?
DALE ROMANS: I think he'd be blown away. I don't think he won but two or three Stakes in his entire career, but it was a good enough career to raise us all.
I was fortunate enough to be able to grow up in the morning where he started racing late in life, and being able to just grow up in the barn gave me a different perspective probably than he had. I just think he would have been proud and blown away with the way the stables matured.
Q. (Asking about Jesus Castanon)?
DALE ROMANS: You know what, he's a very good rider, and on top of it he's a good horseman. If he'll come back, he'll give you feedback. Just like he told me after the Fountain of Youth to throw the race out, not to worry about it and move forward. He's a good horseman on top of being a good rider, and he doesn't get shaken.
I thought he'd be nervous before the Kentucky Derby, and I went up to talk to him a little bit, and he looked like he was going out on a Wednesday afternoon. He ended up calming me down when I left the room.
So it didn't bother him at all that we were going out for a Classic. He knew he had ridden with all these jockeys before, and he could do it again.
Q. Mike, if you're around, if we could get the jockey back with us to answer some more questions that would be great. Since nobody has brought it up, I will take the initiative here. Fine race in the Derby, winning race here in the Preakness, where does Belmont Stakes enter into the equation? I'll let you three fight it out as to who answers.
MICHAEL LAUFFER: We haven't had much time to think about that. We're so excited, but we'll see how the horse comes out of the race. But Dale's a good horseman. He'll know what to do.
Q. Dale, can your horse go a mile‑and‑a‑half?
DALE ROMANS: You know, Woody Stephens said a long time ago, Belmont is a speed horse's race. Everybody's tired at the eighth pole, so the horse on the lead can usually keep on going. I don't know. We'll see how he comes out of it. If he comes out of it as well as he did at the Derby, we'll have to seriously consider it.
Q. I think Woody said if he can go a mile, he can go a mile‑and‑a‑half.
DALE ROMANS: Yeah.
Q. To follow up on that last question, while you're well known in horse racing circles, maybe you're not all that well known beyond horse racing circles. What does a Triple Crown win do for your career?
DALE ROMANS: Well, it puts you in the history books. A Triple Crown race, we won the Dubai World Cup, and the Breeders' Cup race, and we've won a lot of races at Churchill Downs and around the country. But to go down in history, you need to win a Triple Crown race, and that's what we did today.
There are a lot of things left to do, but the major goal is to try to win the Kentucky Derby.
Q. Dale, while we have you, no disrespect to Michael or Bill, but a quick comment on Paddy O'Prado who came back and won the Dixie today?
DALE ROMANS: He's a super horse. He had a heck of a campaign last year. He never missed a beat. In today's race, that was very rewarding for him off a six-month layoff for him to come back and run like he did. The turf course was a little soft, but anybody that was out there could tell it was beat up pretty good, and pretty soft. He handled it really well and ran a huge race for the first time off the layoff.
Q. We have an all points bulletin from Jesus Castanon who has departed the scene, but we're trying to get him back in. Was this race what you expected after the Florida Derby quick pace and the Kentucky Derby fourth place finish?
DALE ROMANS: I didn't know what they were going to try to do with Flashpoint. That was the only thing that concerned me. I didn't know if they'd try to even go faster than we went and see if he could open up a two or three. It turned out to be the ideal situation.
Our horse likes to look a horse in the eye. He set right off of him all the way around there, and then Flashpoint gave in and we took over the lead. I think it blew up his heart. He felt good about himself at that point.
Q. Mike, can you talk about Jesus, and the decision to put him on your horse? Was it your decision, Bill's decision, Dale's decision?
MICHAEL LAUFFER: It was absolutely Dale's decision, and we were 100% behind him. He's done a good job every race he's ridden, Shackleford, and he's a really good rider.
Q. Are you gentleman partners on everything? Do you pick and choose what you team up on? How does it all work?
BILL CUBBEDGE: We pretty much pick and choose. Since Mike sold Rachel, he had a little bit more cash in his pocket, so he's gotten ahead of me with his stable a little bit. But I think we're racing about four together right now, four or five.
Q. Hopefully today will help you catch up to Michael.
BILL CUBBEDGE: Yeah.
Q. You brought up running claimers back in the day, what was it that made you recall those days here at the Preakness?
MICHAEL LAUFFER: We came out this morning and took care of the horses and made sure everything was okay and went to breakfast. I don't know who brought it up. We just started to talk about the old days of living at Ellis Park and some of the horses.
My brother doesn't work in the industry anymore, though he does own some pretty nice horses. He gallops horses and I ran the horses and we were just kids, 13, 14, 15. We were talking about how bad the stock was that we worked with back then compared to what we have today.
We never thought we could get these kinds of horses. It wasn't even a dream. We just wanted to make a living in the horse business in some way, and it's been phenomenal.
Q. Dale, before I forget, for the benefit of many media members here, can you fill us in on Shackleford's departure schedule from Baltimore? Will you be here tomorrow? When does Shackleford ship out?
DALE ROMANS: He'll fly back to the home base at Churchill tomorrow. He'll get down there, and we'll evaluate him over the next ten days or so. And we'll have to make a decision at that point. We also have a barn at Belmont. Probably we'll get him up there as soon as we make the decision on whether or not we're going to run.
Q. So he's going first to Churchill?
DALE ROMANS: I think he is right now. That could change before the morning. I'm going to go back to the barn and think about it some and talk to Mike and Bill and see if they want to do that or we want to go straight into Belmont and give him three weeks. That's a tough track to run on. Might have to give him more time to train on it.
Q. What time will he physically leave Pimlico?
DALE ROMANS: Sometime early in the morning.
Q. Can you just talk a little about how you guys started riding and your background?
JESUS CASTANON: Yeah, my dad used to have horses in Mexico, and that's how I came to be a jockey.
Q. I have a question for Jesus. Where'd you go? Everybody was looking for you and you left us?
JESUS CASTANON: I was back there.
Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Dale and how it started and what you think makes him such a good trainer?
BILL CUBBEDGE: It's kind of a funny thing. We had a horse, a filly for training and he was looking for a trainer. I was thinking about getting Bill Mott to train the horse. We called him, and he didn't get back to us for a couple of weeks. And Teresa Little of Taylor Made Farms said, "Why don't you give that horse to Dale Romans?" And I just immediately called Dale and asked him if he'd like to take the horse. He was in Florida, and he said, sure.
So that's how we got ‑‑ Dale got that horse, and I like the way his staff worked. They're very professional, great exercise riders, just a topnotch team. So when Shackleford came up, I thought he was going to be a good colt. We really liked him. So I wanted him to have a trainer that knew how to handle a big horse.
Q. Jesus, did your family own race horses back in Mexico?
JESUS CASTANON: They did. My dad ‑‑ my dad used to train in Mexico City.
Q. When did you come here, Jesus?
JESUS CASTANON: I came up here in 1999. My brother Antonio was riding in California, and he's the one that brought me up here.
Q. Jesus, it was noted on the telecast that you were emotional after the race, and it was mentioned that your father died last November. Can tell us what he died of and take us through your emotions after the race?
JESUS CASTANON: He was on dialysis. He only last three years. Once the race ‑‑ when I came to the wire, he just came to me. I know he was up there watching me.
Q. What is the source of the name Shackleford for the North Carolina fans?
MICHAEL LAUFFER: Tell them how we got the name.
BILL CUBBEDGE: Charles Shackleford, the point shaver.
Q. A less noble Shackleford. No, a geographic reference, perhaps?
BILL CUBBEDGE: Yeah, that is the story. Mike and I like to spend a lot of time on an island in North Carolina called Shackleford Island, and they have wild horses there. It's a good story.
Q. Did you say anything to your horse after he won the race?
JESUS CASTANON: Did I say anything to the horse?
JESUS CASTANON: I said congratulations (laughing).
Q. Jesus, can you tell us what your father's name was?
JESUS CASTANON: Jesus Castanon.
Q. Were you confident down the stretch that you could hold off Animal Kingdom in the last 16th of a mile?
JESUS CASTANON: Oh, yes, I was confident all the way around.
Q. How do you feel to be successful all around the world?
JESUS CASTANON: It feels amazing. I've got no word how to explain it, but it does feel amazing.
Q. Also, what were you thinking as you came around that last turn?
JESUS CASTANON: When I get to the top of the stretch, I knew I still had some horse. It's just when I asked him to pick it up, I could feel my horse get bigger. It was just emotional.
Q. Can you kind of summarize the last hour, hour‑and‑a‑half winning a great two with your outstanding turf horse Paddy O'Prado, and in very short order winning the Preakness, your first ever Triple Crown win with Shackleford?
DALE ROMANS: No, I can't sum it up yet. It's been a spectacular two hours. We just set a personal record of 160 texts to return. It's been a great week. We had a great week here at Pimlico, and I'd just like to thank everybody here for the way they treated us. It's been super.
Q. Jesus, you ride a lot of training races. Did you approach this race, the Preakness, with that type of calm, or was the pressure on because it was a Stakes race?
JESUS CASTANON: Oh, I was very calm coming to the Derby. I was very excited to be in it. Coming to this race, I was calm and very confident in the horse.
Q. How old were you when you first started riding, Jesus? And what do you love most about the sport?
JESUS CASTANON: I was 16 years old, and winning a lot of races, especially this kind.
Q. Dale, what is your text plan if you're returning 160 texts in five minutes?
DALE ROMANS: If anybody's watching, I probably won't return any text, but thanks to all of you.
Q. What did you get for Rachel Alexandra?
MICHAEL LAUFFER: That's a little personal. I think it's pretty well known, $10 million.
Q. Dale, your wife is closely involved this your operation, can you talk about your whole team?
DALE ROMANS: We have a great team, from top to bottom. We have hot walkers that have been with us over ten years. My assistants have been together since we were 19 and 20 working for my father. Tammy's a huge part of the stable. She breezes all the horses. There is nobody that gives a better line on the horse than she does.
I was telling the story this morning about when we were young and getting started together. Our second year at Saratoga, I was trying to pick Dick Dutrow's brain all the time, and one day he got tired of me and said keep the little girl that's breezing all your horses and you'll be just fine. And he was right.
Q. The question is as well as Animal Kingdom ran today and as well as your horse ran, especially today, do you expect the 3‑year‑old honor to go all the way to the Breeders' Cup this year?
DALE ROMANS: Hopefully. It will be good for horse racing to have another good rivalry. I said earlier in the week, and some people argued with me, that I believe the future's going to show that this is a pretty good crop of 3‑year‑olds.
I think everybody's been knocking them a little bit when we lost Uncle Mo. I think that's shown up in the Classics. I think we have good three‑year‑olds, and hopefully we'll have a good rivalry with Animal Kingdom when it comes down to the wire.
To all four of you, congratulations on a great win by Shackleford in the 136th Preakness Stakes, and continued success as 2011 rolls on.