Shackleford (Forestry) set all the pace in Monday's GI Metropolitan H. and just held on for a gritty nose victory over the furious late rally of Caleb's Posse (Posse). "I knew he was going to finish," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "It was just a matter of whether they could get by him or not. He's gutsy as they come. Hopefully, he'll get the credit he deserves. He's a spectacular horse."
Monday, Belmont Park
METROPOLITAN H.-GI, $750,000, BEL, 5-28, 3yo/up, 1m, 1:33 1/5, ft.
1--SHACKLEFORD, 119, c, 4, by Forestry
1st Dam: Oatsee (SP, $106,945), by Unbridled
2nd Dam: With Every Wish, by Lear Fan
3rd Dam: Amo, by Hold Your Peace
($275,000 RNA yrl '09 KEESEP). O-Michael Lauffer, WD Cubbedge & Phillps Racing Partnership; B-Mike Lauffer & Bill Cubbedge (KY); T-Dale L Romans; J-John R Velazquez; $450,000. Lifetime Record: 16-5-4-1, $2,741,381. *1/2 to Baghdaria (Royal Academy), MGSW, $725,433; Lady Joanne (Orientate), GISW, $987,094; Afleeting Lady (Afleet Alex), GSP, $205,305. Werk Nick Rating: A++. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2--Caleb's Posse, 121, c, 4, Posse--Abbey's Missy, by Slewacide. O-McNeill Stables & Cheyenne Stables LLC; B-Don C McNeill (KY); T-Donnie K Von Hemel; $150,000.
3--To Honor and Serve, 120, c, 4, Bernardini--Pilfer, by Deputy Minister. ($250,000 wlng '08 KEENOV; $575,000 yrl '09 KEESEP). O-Live Oak Plantation; B-Twin Creeks Farm, Larry Byer & RanchoSan Miguel (KY); T-William I Mott; $75,000.
Margins: NO, 3, 5. Odds: 3.40, 1.95, 1.65.
Also Ran: Caixa Eletronica, Jackson Bend, Saginaw. Click for the brisnet.com chart, the brisnet.com PPs, the free brisnet.com catalogue-style pedigree or the video, sponsored by Taylor Made Sales.
Sent off at 3-1, Shackleford broke alertly and was soon at the head of affairs. He was hounded by Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil) through fractions of :22.77 and :44.73, with favored To Honor and Serve (Bernardini) a close-up third along the rail as Caleb's Posse dropped some 10 lengths off the pace. Shackleford began to open up on his rivals after three-quarters in 1:08.52, but Caleb's Posse was finding his best stride in the middle of the track to give the Belmont faithful a Met Mile finish to remember.
Shackleford went winless for nearly a year after his victory in the 2011 GI Preakness S., but got back on track with a game victory over sprint champion Amazombie (Northern Afleet) in the May 5 GII Churchill Downs S. He wasted no time in making it back-to-back wins Monday and, according to trainer Dale Romans, he is a horse who thrives on activity. "The more work [Shackleford] does, the better he is," the trainer said. "I brought him out a little too soft early in the year. I was too easy on him. We started cranking it up, and it's paid off. The more I do with him, the more he likes it and the better he gets."
Romans is looking forward to continuing the rivalry between Shackleford and Caleb's Posse.
"These two have had a good rivalry," Romans commented. "It's their fourth time against each other, and they're 2-2. Caleb's Posse is a great horse, and it's a good rivalry. Let's see each other again. It was the race of the year, and it's exciting to have been part of it, win, lose, or draw, with all of those good horses. And it lived up to its billing. To be a nose apart at the wire, I think it lived up to the hype."
Shackleford earned an automatic berth to this year's GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with the victory and co-owner Michael Lauffer is ready to book his hotel.
"Our two main goals for [Shackleford] this year were to win the Met Mile and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile," Lauffer said. "We've accomplished the first one and now we'll go after the second. The "Win and You're In" is a great incentive."
For Caleb's Posse, winner of last year's GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, it was a third straight heartbreaking defeat. The 4-year-old missed by a neck in the Mar. 3 GIII Tom Fool H. and by a nose in the Apr. 7 GI Carter H. "We'll get over this," said trainer Donnie Von Hemel. "For him to overcome the track bias and run like that, we're very proud of him."