Okay, I promised no more Shackleford posts, but after bobbing badly at the start in the Breeders Cup Mile at Santa Anita, owners Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge saw fit to bring the lad back for one more spin around his home track of Churchill Downs. For good measure, likely 2012 trainer of the year Dale Romans reunited Shack with jockey Jesus Castanon.
Even if the two-turn 1 1/8 mile distance was not his best distance and questions lingered about how much he had left in the tank, Shackleford ended his career with a resounding Grade I victory at America's most storied racetrack. I know you're all relieved (no more posts about a horse on a golf blog!), but indulge the magnificent athlete one last time by reading Alicia Wincze Hughes's excellent game story.
Rare as it is for an athlete to leave a sport at the top of his game, it's even rarer to get a second chance at doing so. Following a disastrous seventh-place run in the Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, Shackleford seized a second shot at career-ending glory when he headed every point of call in Friday's $447,000 Clark Handicap to notch his sixth career win in his 20th and final start.
From his usual pre-race antics in the paddock to the way he turned back runner-up Take Charge Indy every step of the 11⁄8-mile race, everything about the Clark was quintessential Shackleford.
He retires to "stand" at Darby Dan Farm with $3,090,101 in earnings, three Grade I wins and a $20,000 stud fee.
Here is Shack looking regal heading toward the storied Churchill Downs paddock. And his usual pre-race basket case self.
After the win, owners Cubbedge and Lauffer escort the horse they bred into the winner's circle one last time. And best of all, here Shack is riding off into the sunset…literally!
Come on, you know you want to hear that name called one more time, albeit in lousy YouTube sound...or watch the Preakness one more time.
**There is a super photo by Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos accompanying Brisnet's story on Shack's final race.
Wooley is a former USGA staffer and rules staff expert who lives in Kentucky and now deals with far more tame, rational and attractive beasts by photographing champs like Shack instead of...oh I won't finish that thought.