Shackleford hasn’t missed a beat along the Triple Crown trail. Now, after a brief vacation at a Kentucky farm, the Preakness winner is ready to run again in today’s $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
“He’s had a grueling year - the Fountain of the Youth, Florida Derby, all three Triple Crowns, and he’s still holding his weight and still looks great,’’ trainer Dale Romans said. “We gave him a two-week break after the Belmont, sent him to WinStar Farm to freshen up, and he seemed to appreciate it. His last two workouts were spectacular.’’
Shackleford is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of eight for today’s 1 1/8-mile run. The race helps kick off the second season for 3-year-olds, with no clear-cut leader in the division.
Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is out with an injury, but Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice is among Shackleford’s challengers. Also entered are Coil, the second betting choice at 3-1, Joe Vann, Pants On Fire, Concealed Identity, J J’s Lucky Train, and Astrology.
Shackleford has never been the favorite in any of his eight races, going off at 68-1 odds and then running second in the Florida Derby before finishing fourth in the Derby at 23-1, first in the Preakness at 12-1, and fifth in the Belmont at 6-1.
“I don’t think he’s going to know the difference, but it’s a little different type of pressure for us,’’ Romans said. “He never got the respect he deserved. I thought he would be a shorter price in the Belmont, but he’s been training great and we’ll see what happens.’’
Shackleford would likely move to the head of the 3-year-old class with a victory. The next big race on the calendar is the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 27, with the ultimate goal the Breeders’ Cup Classic at
“I think we’re all even right now,’’ he said in reference to the Triple Crown race winners. “I think Animal Kingdom’s up against it if one of us goes on and wins another Grade I, especially here at the Haskell or Travers, then they have to be considered in the lead.’’
Saratoga - Javier Castellano scored two wins in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., guiding Stay Thirsty in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes for 3-year olds and Zagora in the $500,000 Diana Stakes for fillies and mares.
Stay Thirsty took control from front-running Dominus at midstretch and drew away to a 4-length win, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.19. Long shot Moonshine Mullins was second and Dominus, the favorite, was third.
Stay Thirsty paid $7, $4.20, and $2.90. Moonshine Mullins earned $23.40 and $7.60 and Dominus returned $3.
The 4-year-old Zagora got her first win in five starts since she was imported from France last year, running the 1 1/8 miles over the main turf course in 1:49.19 to beat Aruna by 1 1/2 lengths. Bay to Bay was third of nine. Zagora returned $13.60, $5.90, and $3.60. Aruna paid $4.40 and $2.90, and Bay to Bay paid $4.60.