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Shackleford's Memorable Return to the Winner's Circle


Amazement.  That is the one feeling I was left with after watching the Kentucky Derby racing card on Saturday.  However, it was not the performance of the top tier of 3 year olds that gave me this sensation.  It was the performance of last year’s Preakness winner, Shackleford.  Growing up, I have been extremely competitive in sports, but never exceptional at any of them.  To say I was last picked for the kickball team is not accurate, but I wasn’t the first picked either.  This was something that I learned early in life, and to make up for raw physical ability, I had to compensate by simply being tougher than my opponent. 


The will to outlast is something that can be far more devastating to physically superior competitors.   When I witness this, regardless of the sport, I am inspired.  This is the exact thing that occurred yesterday in the Churchill Downs Stakes.  The stretch battle between Shackleford and Amazombie was a thing of beauty.  I would say that Amazombie is a better sprinter, but he certainly met his match.  After suicidal fractions were set for the ¼ and ½ mile, I thought Shackleford, and the stalking Amazombie were going to fade like the wind coming down the long Churchill stretch.


To my astonishment, the race turned from a blistering pace to a sheer battle of wills between 2 great horses.  In one corner we had the reigning Eclipse Award Champion Sprinter, and in the other corner, perhaps the toughest horse of his generation.  Shackleford has not found the winner’s circle in nearly a year since his wire-to-wire Preakness victory.  And in this race he seemed doomed again to be bested by another horse at the wire.  On this day, however, just when Shackleford was looking to get beat in the last few strides, he simply grit is teeth, and pulled on the bit just a little bit harder, refusing to yield.


“Tough as nails.”  That was what my high school baseball coach used to call us when we demonstrated exceptional toughness on the field.  In this race, there is no expression more deserving for the performance of Shackleford.  Even though I bet on Amazombie, I couldn’t help but find myself cheering for Shack the whole length of the stretch.  I’ve never been so happy to lose a wager.  The only thing that went against Shackleford’s spectacular performance was the fact that Groupie Doll upped the anti by running the same distance nearly a half second faster, and setting a new track record, later in the day.


But regardless of Groupie Doll running away with a fantastic win and finishing time, it was the toughness, grit, and determination of a Shackleford that made this day special to me.  On any other day, his win would have been marvel for far longer than it actually was.  However, it is simply not his style to stay in the spotlight for long.  Perhaps that is what he has so many fans?  To see him overcome a challenge and find his way to the winner’s circle again is something that will make this year’s Kentucky Derby stand out.  10 years from now, I wont remember the 2012 Kentucky Derby because of I’ll Have Another, but rather I will remember I’ll Have Another because he won the Derby on the day of one the best finishes I have ever seen in a completely different race.



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Older Comments about Shackleford's Memorable Return to the Winner's Circle...

What a true racehorse, Shackelford. All heart, guts, stamina, and the burning desire,to win. It is obvious, The secretariat blood flows through Shacks veins. Have loved this horse since his debut. We could learn a lesson from Shack. Never give up. Good for you Mr.Romans, and his connections, for keeping this magnificent horse running.
I'm so glad he's running as a sprinter and he is back as a winner. There is just something about him--he's beautiful like his great-grandam Terlingua and great-great grandsire Secretariat. He surely has the determination of Terlingua. Congrats to the Romans team.
Oh to think I didn't appreciate him until the BC. Had eyes only for my MMM, but he's such a warhorse.
Beautifully said....my sentiments exactly! The Shack is Back!!! What a horse! What heart he has! As Dale Romans says, "He's still the big horse in the barn!" Yes he is....indeed he is!
I was so happy to see the big guy return to the winner's circle! Definitely made my day, too!
I totally relate to your appreciation of shear determination at the finish line. I remember a fine tiny Arabian mare named Diamonds'Rust who broke from the 12 hole at Los Alamitos in the richest race that year for the mares. She hit the rail before the first of three turns and dueled three other mares, with ears penned all the way around the mile and 1/8th Gladys Brown Edwards Stakes to earn a photo finish third, only one length off the leader!! Stunning! She remains my reference point for grit!
About time he found the winners circle! And about time Romans realized he wasnt a classic distance horse. I dont know how he pulled off the preakness.
An incredible performance...Shack is back!
Such a character---I love Amazombie---but Shack had been out of the winner's circle for too long and I was pulling so hard for him to win one.
I can honestly say Shackleford's victory made the day for me. LOVE this horse!
I love the picture with this story, the determined look in his eyes tells the whole story!
he done good!
Shackleford has always been a very very popular horse. It's good for racing that he got another high quality win!
It was a thrilling race to see a Preakness winner score in a battle against a sprint champion ... Looks like Shack has found his game.

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