Denk on Horses Derby contender profiles
Shackleford before the Florida Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)
Shackleford broke his maiden going seven furlongs November 27 at Churchill Downs in his second career start. That day was Churchill’s semiannual “Stars of Tomorrow” card, which attracts some of the most promising 2-year-olds on the backstretch.
In fact, Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch finished second in the split division of Shackleford’s maiden race.
Breaking from the 11-post, Shackleford stumbled slightly and bumped at the start. He quickly recovered and dueled between horses through a half mile in 46.69 seconds, a solid pace that day. Shackleford grabbed the lead along the rail heading into the far turn. Turning for home he was pinned on the inside and looked beaten, but he re-broke in the final sixteenth of a mile to win by three-quarters of a length. It was a tenacious victory. Shackleford ran his final three-eighths of a mile in 36.96 seconds, and the final time of 1:23.65 was the fastest of three seven-furlong races that day.
Shackleford made his 3-year-old debut in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Again pressing the pace, Shackleford looked a little green early, and he was all over the place in the stretch, but he won by open lengths and seemed to get his stride together galloping out past the finish line.
Next up was the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Shackleford broke badly from the outside post, never got to the lead, and tired to finish fifth. He was beaten 23 1/2 lengths by Soldat, who cruised on the lead from the rail.
Shackleford bounced back strongly in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, turning the tables on Soldat but just failing to hold off Dialed In by a head. Shackleford set fast fractions in the Florida Derby — a half-mile in 46.35 seconds and three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.65. By comparison, older horses went 48.38 and 1:12.89 in the Grade 3 Skip Away on the same card.
The hot fractions (and weather) took their toll in the Florida Derby, as the final three-eighths of a mile was timed in a very slow 39.44 seconds. Shackleford won the pace battle but lost the war. Although winner Dialed In got his head in front at the wire, Shackleford showed good fight and actually galloped out past that rival.
Shackleford is by Forestry, a speed sire who is not considered a positive influence at classic distances. However, Shackleford has a good female family; he is out of a mare by 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. Shackelford’s half sister, Lady Joanne, won the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at 1 1/4 miles, and she is by another speed sire, Orientate.
Shackleford is a talented, game colt. His odds were 68-1 in the Florida Derby, and there is a good chance he will be underestimated again in Louisville, pace and distance concerns notwithstanding.