Shackleford and To Honor and Serve, a pair of
4-year-olds who were respectively first and third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan
Handicap in May, will renew their rivalry on Saturday in the Grade 2, $400,000
Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park.
In the Met Mile on Memorial Day, Shackleford set the pace along the
rail, helping trap To Honor and Serve on the inside in third. Shackleford dug
in to prevail by a nose over Caleb’s Posse, while To Honor and Serve
raced evenly once clear, checking in three lengths behind the winner.
The Kelso, like the Met Mile, is contested at one mile on the Belmont Park main track and is a “Win and
You’re In” race for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on
November 3 at Santa Anita.
Shackleford, victorious in the Grade 1 Preakness and second in the
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in 2011, has made one start since the Met Mile,
finishing last of eight over a muddy track in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt
Handicap on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course. Originally slated to run in Saratoga’s Grade 1
Forego, the son of Forestry missed the race with a cough but has continued to
train steadily, posting three fast breezes at Churchill Downs.
“[The September 23 breeze] was as good of a work as he’s
ever had, and we did the right thing by skipping the Forego,” said
Romans, who trains the chestnut for Michael Lauffer, W.D. Cubbedge, and the
Phillips Racing Partnership. “We’re looking for a big effort from
Ramon Dominguez will ride Shackleford, the 2-1 second choice on the
morning line, for the first time in the Kelso.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez rode Shackleford and To Honor and Serve in
their most recent starts and has opted to ride the latter in the Kelso.
To Honor and Serve was fourth as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade 2
Suburban Handicap on July 7 at Belmont,
and his Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott, said the colt may have been adversely
affected by hot weather that day. After bypassing the Grade 1 Whitney
Invitational Handicap in early August, the Live Oak Plantation representative
returned to defeat Suburban winner Mucho Macho Man by a head in the Grade 1
Woodward on September 1 at Saratoga.
“He was fourth, beaten [7 ½ lengths] or so in the
Suburban,” said Mott. “But that’s the reason we skipped the
Whitney and gave him a little rest until earlier September in the hopes that
the weather was cooling off a bit. And he seems to be doing well. I mean,
he’s bounced back since then, since the Woodward, and I think part of it
is because he does better in the cool weather. He feels good and eats better, and
he actually seems as though he’s put on a little weight to me. In the
last 10 days he looks like he’s filled back out a little bit.”
To Honor and Serve will be cutting back from 1 1/8 miles in the Woodward
to a one-turn mile in the Kelso. He is 3-0-1 in four starts in one-mile races, with
wins coming in the 2010 Grade 2 Nashua, 2011 Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap, and
2012 Grade 3 Westchester. The one loss came in this year’s Met Mile.
“I’ve always felt my horse is very effective at a one-turn
mile,” said Mott. “Shackleford beat him in the Met Mile, but I felt
like on that particular day we didn’t have the golden trip, and to beat a
horse like that you’ve got to have the golden trip.”
To Honor and Serve, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, drew post 5.
Tapizar, owned by Ron Winchell, returns to Belmont for the first time since winning a
seven-furlong optional claimer last October.
After finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to close out
2011, Tapizar won the Grade 2 San Fernando by 3 ½ lengths in January and was
fourth in the Grade 2 Strub in February at Santa Anita; he reported home second
in the Grade 3 Razborback Handicap in March at Oaklawn and returned from a
nearly five-month layoff to take the West Virginia Governor’s Stakes on
August 4 at Mountaineer.
Tapizar, trained by Steve Asmussen, will depart from post 4 with
regular rider Corey Nakatani aboard and is 6-1 on the morning line.
The Kelso field includes the Rick Dutrow, Jr. quartet of Isn’t He
Perfect, Gallant Fields, Pacific Ocean, and
Trickmeister. Rounding out the entries are Golddigger’s Boy, second to
Pacific Ocean in the Grade 3 James Marvin on July 20, and Jersey Town,
third in the Grade 1 Forego on September 1.