Churchill Downs will host its only fall meet grade one event this Friday when a field of ten contest the $400,000 Clark Handicap at 1 1/8 miles over the dirt.
Headlining the field with the top weight of 120 pounds is Dale Romans’ Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. The four-year-old son of Forestry was set to retire after a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) earlier this month at Santa Anita. However, it wasn’t long before talk spread of running him one more time—in either the Clark or the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York.
“I wanted to run him at Churchill Downs and didn’t want to ship him,” Romans said. “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.”
Shackleford’s last six races have been run at a mile or less with his last victory coming in the one mile Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont on May 28. In his last start at Churchill Downs, Shackleford took the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) over 2011 Male Sprint Champion Amazombie. Jockey Jesus Castanon, who led Shackleford to victory in the 2011 Preakness and a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, will reclaim the mount.
“He ranks right up there with some of the best horses I’ve trained,” Romans said. “He’s done all he needs to do, but it’ll be hard to see him go. Horses like him are hard to replace.”
Shackleford is scheduled to enter stud next year and will stand at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Ky.