Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge's homebred SHACKLEFORD (Forestry) raised his profile among the Florida-based three-year-old set by driving to a 2 1/4-length victory over troubled even-money favorite Casper's Touch (Touch Gold) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Carded as the 3RD race, the entry-level allowance was contested over the same track and 1 1/8-mile distance as the February 26 Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and the April 3 Florida Derby (G1).
The Dale Romans-trained Shackleford, who was last seen breaking his maiden in a seven-furlong test at Churchill Downs on November 27, was sent off as the co-third choice here at odds of 9-2 in his two-turn debut, and his first try against winners. With new rider Jesus Castanon aboard, the chestnut colt prompted the pace established by El Grayling (El Prado [Ire]) through splits of :24 1/5, :48 1/5 and 1:12 1/5. Shadow Warrior (A.P. Indy) tracked in third, and Casper's Touch was rank in fourth.
Shackleford launched his bid on the far turn, and despite racing greenly on his left lead, forged clear in midstretch. Casper's Touch, however, was not as fortunate along the inside. Bumped and shut off by a ducking-in Shadow Warrior, Casper's Touch had to take up sharply, losing valuable ground and momentum. Yet Casper's Touch regrouped, altered course, and rallied well late.
Meanwhile, Shackleford was still firmly in command under tender handling by Castanon, crossing the wire in a final time of 1:50 on the fast track and paying $11.20, $4.80 and $3. Casper's Touch caught El Grayling by a nose for second, and Shadow Warrior checked in another length back in fourth. The remaining two runners in the six-horse field finished well strung out.
Shackleford's record now reads 3-2-0-0, $59,666. His only loss came in his debut over Keeneland's Polytrack on October 16, where he chased the pace four wide early before retreating to ninth. Shackleford argued the pace to better effect next time at Churchill Downs, coming again when headed to inch away by three-quarters of a length. Following his Gulfstream allowance score, he is now two-for-two on dirt.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the stakes-placed Unbridled mare Oatsee, making him a half-brother to Lady Joanne (Orientate), the winner of the 2007 Alabama S. (G1), and to multiple Grade 3 heroine Baghdaria (Royal Academy).
Shackleford's fourth dam is Taminette (In Reality), a full sister to Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) winner and successful sire Known Fact, and a three-quarter sister to multiple Grade 1 star Tentam (Intentionally). Taminette produced multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Tappiano (Fappiano), and other notables in the family include Grade 1 victor and influential stallion Gone West (Mr. Prospector).
Five races later in the 8TH, trainer Todd Pletcher unveiled WinStar Farm's homebred CAL NATION (Distorted Humor), who promptly lived up to his regal bloodlines with a smashing 7 3/4-length romp in his career debut. After breaking like a shot from the far outside in post 9, the 6-5 favorite conceded the early lead to 40-1 longshot Jack London (Tale of the Cat) and settled into a clear second.
Jack London sprinted away and got the initial quarter in :22 1/5, but by the time he reached the half in :45, Cal Nation was on the march. Ranging up to the leader turning for home, Cal Nation put him away in short order and proceeded to pad his advantage, ultimately finishing seven furlongs in 1:22. Jack London outperformed his odds by holding second by 1 3/4 lengths.
Cal Nation opened his account with the $23,100 winner's share of the purse. The promising sophomore is a half-brother to millionaire and hot young sire Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat), hero of the 2006 Haskell Invitational (G1) and runner-up in that year's Kentucky Derby (G1), Belmont S. (G1) and Travers S. (G1). They were both produced by the unraced A.P. Indy mare She's a Winner, a full sister to Vosburgh S. (G1) victor Girolamo, Grade 2 queen Daydreaming and Grade 3 scorer Accelerator.
She's a Winner is also a full sister to the winning Super Charger, who is herself the dam of 2010 Kentucky Derby star Super Saver (Maria's Mon) and current unbeaten Derby hopeful Brethren (Distorted Humor), likewise trained by Pletcher.