Shackleford won the $400,000 Clark Handicap before a crowd of adoring fans at Churchill Downs Friday evening. The race was to be the Dale Romans-trained colt’s swan song before retiring to stand stud duty at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
Shackleford broke for the lead under jockey Jesus Castanon and led the field in the wire-to-wire victory. Calvin Borel and Take Charge Indy challenged the son of Forestry, but Shackleford would not be denied and powered on through the stretch to win by a length. Take Charge Indy kept a head in front to hold off a late run by Leandro Goncalves and Bourbon Courage who were 6 ¾ lengths ahead of Lunar Victory.
After a disappointing seventh place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile three weeks ago, Romans announced plans to run Shackleford one more time in either the Clark Handicap or Aqueduct’s Cigar Mile (G1) before retiring the colt.
"That’s the way he’s supposed to leave,” said an emotional Romans. “He was very impressive today. That’s ‘Shack’ at his best. That's how we expected him to run in the Breeders' Cup (Dirt Mile) and it wasn't his fault that he stumbled. That's the way I wanted to see him end his career. "
In the week leading up to the race Romans said, “I wanted to run him at Churchill Downs and didn’t want to ship him. He’s doing good here right now and he likes this racetrack. I think he’ll run big and the 1 1/8 miles might be a little easier on him pace wise than the (Cigar) Mile.”
The win was something special not only to the fans that cheered the colt home, but to his rider that gave Romans his first Classic win in the 20111 Preakness Stakes. "It was very emotional," said Castanon. "When I spoke to Dale and he told me I would be back on him, I was so happy. To be able to ride him in his last race was amazing."
Shackleford's record stands at six wins in 20 starts and includes Grade 1 victories in the Preakness Stakes, the Churchill Downs Stakes, and the Metropolitan Handicap. His career earnings climbed to $3,090,101 with the Clark win.
The win was Romans’s 27th stakes win this year, 20 of those graded stakes, and nine of those Grade 1 victories. Romans won the Churchill Downs Thanksgiving Day feature, the Falls City Handicap (G2), with Afleeting Lady.
Trainer Mark Casse scratched Pool Play earlier in the day saying he just hadn’t been training well.
Shackleford returned $7.80, $4.80, and $3.40. Take Charge Indy paid $6.80 and $4.40 and completed the $2 exacta for $48.20. Bourbon Courage paid $4.00 and completed the $2 trifecta for $247.40. Lunar Victory completed the $2 superfecta for $863.20. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race over the fast dirt was 1:49:12.