Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge’s homebred Shackleford outdueled Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Grade I) winner Amazombie in a dazzling stretch duel to win the 78th running of the $441,600 Churchill Downs Presented by Navistar (GI) by a length on Saturday afternoon.
Ridden by Jesus Castanon and trained by Dale Romans, Shackleford notched his first victory since winning the Preakness last May. In his past two Churchill Downs appearances, Shackleford had finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby (GI) and second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI).
Shackleford covered the seven furlongs on a fast main track in 1:21.06.
Will’s Wildcat led the field of eight sprinters through a first quarter-mile in :21.96 with Shackleford and Amazombie, ridden by Mike Smith, in closest pursuit.
Amazombie and Shackleford cruised past Will’s Wildcat leaving the backstretch and raced as a team to the head of the lane. Amazombie took a brief advantage only to have Shackleford rally back on the inside in the final sixteenth of a mile to secure the victory.
A 4-year-old son of Forestry out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee, Shackleford added $265,578 to his bankroll that swelled to $2,291,381 with a record of 15-4-4-1.
Shackleford returned $5.60, $3.20 and $2.40. Amazombie paid $3.20 and $2.40 in finishing five lengths in front of Gantry, who paid $4.20 to show under Richard Eramia.
Alma d’Oro was another three-quarters of a length back in fourth and was followed in order by Smiling Tiger, Apriority, Hamazing Destiny and Will’s Wildcat.
CHURCHILL DOWNS QUOTES
JESUS CASTANON (Jockey, Shackleford, first) – “He gave me a heck of a move right from the gate. I sat right off them, and when I asked him to pick it up, he was game. The horse on the outside (Amazombie) came on top of me and my horse fought back. You couldn’t ask for better. He’s back!”
DALE ROMANS (Trainer, Shackleford, first) – “This is special, I tell you. He’s the big horse in our barn. He’s the Grade I winner. He deserves to be back in the winner’s circle. It feels great. Every race he tries so hard. He had been in nine Grade Ones. He’s still the star of the barn.
“We’re going to keep him short for a little while now. Maybe we’ll try the Met Mile next. He can do just about anything.”
MIKE SMITH (Jockey, Amazombie, second) – “He just ran a dynamite race like he always does. We just ran into a very good horse.”
BILL SPAWR (Trainer, Amazombie, second) – We don’t have much excuse. The other horse was very good. We had no problems. It looks like 6 1/2 [furlongs] is really his limit. We are extremely proud of him, And it’s nice to be here at Churchill Downs.”
RICHARD ERAMIA – (Jockey, Gantry, third) – “He definitely ran a big race. He pushed me into the race. I put him very close. He was very comfortable. He ran a big race.”
RON FAUCHEUX (Trainer, Gantry, third) – “He ran a big race against good horses. We showed that we deserved to be here. We’d like to take another crack at it against this type of field again.
“It might have set up a little bit better for us. We might have lost a length or two at the break. All things considered, we ran a big race.”
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012, and its Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.