A strong five-furlong work over a sloppy Churchill Downs track by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford on Saturday reinforced trainer Dale Romans’ belief that his colt is a strong contender to win the 137th running of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday, May 7.
All Romans has to do is find a way to get the 3-year-old son of Forestry into the Derby 137 starting gate.
Shackleford breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 over Saturday morning’s wet footing. The training move under former jockey Tammy Fox, which came just after the track maintenance break during a special training session reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses, was the fastest of nine works at the distance. Shackleford covered the distance more than two seconds faster than the second-best work.
“I thought he worked as good as he could possibly work,” Romans said. “Now we’ve just got one more work next Saturday and hope we get in.”
Shackleford covered the distance over the soggy track in fractional times of :12, :23.80, :35.60 and :47.80. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.
While Shackleford is clearly doing well since his return to Churchill Downs, his earnings total in graded stakes races remains a major concern for Romans. The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 starters and in the case of an overflow field of entries, which seems likely this year and almost every year, preference is given to those with the highest earnings in graded stakes races. Shackleford has collected $212,000 in graded earnings, which places him 22nd on the current list of horses considered or possible for this year’s renewal of the Run for the Roses.
Romans, Lauffer and Cubbedge will sit tight over the next week and a half and see what develops before entries are made for the Derby on Wednesday, May 4. The $200,000-added The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GII) at Churchill Downs on the track’s April 30 “Opening Night” card on April 30 could provide a final opportunity for Shackleford to boost those earnings, but Romans said it is not an option and Shackleford was not nominated to run.
“We’re not going to do anything crazy,” Romans said. “If it’s going to compromise our chances of winning (the Derby) we don’t want to be in there. If we don’t get in, we’ll wait for the Preakness.”
Romans found himself in a similar position last year with First Dude, who was training exceptionally well for Romans but was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because of insufficient graded stakes earnings. He ran a close second to eventual 3-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness two weeks after that Derby.
“It’s frustrating because I think a lot of people are going to run because they have the earnings and they can get in, whether they should or shouldn’t,” Romans said. “I think we’re a legitimate contender if we get in.”
Shackleford has a record of 2-1-0 in five races with overall earnings of $271,666.
THREE DERBY 137 CONTENDERS SET FOR SUNDAY WORKS – A trio of Kentucky Derby 137 contenders is set to work on Sunday at Churchill Downs, although weather could be an issue as rain is forecast to continue in the region over the next few days.
Risen Star (GII) winner Mucho Macho Man, Gotham (GIII) winner Stay Thirsty and Vinery Racing Spiral (GIII) runner-up Decisive Moment are expected to work during Sunday’s Derby/Oaks training session at approximately 8:30 a.m. (all times EDT). All three horses galloped during that session on Saturday.
DERBY 137 NOTES – Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Tom Walters’ Santiva in the Kentucky Derby. The Eddie Kenneally trainee won the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) last fall at Churchill Downs, but finished ninth as the favorite in the Toyota Blue Grass. Santiva galloped over the sloppy track on Saturday. … Bob Baffert trainees The Factor and Midnight Interlude galloped during the Derby-Oaks training period. … Trainer Kelly Breen’s Pants On Fire, winner of the Louisiana Derby (GII), is set for a Sunday arrival at Churchill Downs after working five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Saturday at Florida’s Palm Meadows.