Shackleford withstood a furious late charge by Animal Kingdom to win the US$1 million Preakness Stakes on Saturday and vanquish the Triple Crown hopes of the Kentucky Derby champion.
Animal Kingdom, with John Velazquez in the saddle, finished second by half a length, moving from 12th along the far turn to nearly catch Shackleford at the wire.
“I felt somebody coming at the sixteenth pole,” Shackleford’s -Mexican-born jockey Jesus Castanon said after winning his first Triple Crown race. “I knew that Animal Kingdom was the only horse who was able to come get me.”
Astrology took third over the mile-and-three-sixteenths course on a sun-splashed day at the venerable Pimlico Race Course.
Shackleford, a lightly raced Kentucky-bred chestnut trained by Dale Romans, returned US$27.20 for a US$2 win bet after starting as a 12-1 underdog. The son of Forestry tired in the stretch two weeks ago when he finished fourth at the Derby but held on this time.
“When I get to the top of the stretch, I knew I still had some horse,” Castanon said. “When I asked him to pick it up, I could feel my horse get bigger. It was just emotional.”
Velazquez said his mount had got too far back to win the race.
“When I wanted him to go he got dirt kicked in his face,” he said. “So then I had to pull him farther back than I wanted him to be. By the time I had a chance to go, he was coming, but it was too late.”
The early pace was quick, unlike the Derby, with Shackleford jockeying with Flashpoint for the lead. By the top of the stretch, after the pace had slowed considerably, Shackleford had surged to the front.
Animal Kingdom, meanwhile, had begun to weave through traffic, moving four wide at the final turn, with the crowd at Pimlico urging the Derby champion to find another gear.
However the race favorite was unable to catch Shackleford, eliciting groans from the crowd of 107,398 desperate to see a Triple Crown champion.
“It’s tough to come that close but he ran a huge race,” Animal Kingdom trainer Graham Motion said. “I thought for an instant that he might get there but I wasn’t sure. I can’t believe what Johnny weaved through the last three-eighths of a mile.”
Affirmed was the last horse to win the Triple Crown when he won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in 1978.
“I would love to win a Triple Crown, as much for me as everybody else,” the British-born, Maryland-based Motion said. “There is so much pressure to do that because it would be so good for the game. But it wasn’t meant to be.”
Dialed In, the Nick Zito-trained colt who was favorite to win the Derby and second pick in the wagering for the Preakness, moved from last place with less than a half-mile to go to finish fourth in the full field of 14.
“They went fast enough early but then they slowed out,” Zito said. “It didn’t work out. He still came with his run like he always does. He’s a gallant horse.”