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Breeders' Cup 2017

Romans Happy With Shackleford's Kelso Effort

Shackleford top story

While it was not a winning performance, trainer Dale Romans was pleased with what he saw from stable star Shackleford, who ran second in yesterday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Kelso Handicap by 3 ½ lengths.


“I wanted to see Shackleford go ahead and win, but I was happy with his performance because he did show enough to know that he’s back and fresh again,” Romans said. “The Met Mile was a tough race and took a lot out of him, to beat Caleb’s Posse. But I think he’s back, and it will really help him move forward for the Breeders’ Cup.”


It’s been an up-and-down year for the 2011 Preakness winner, starting with seventh and third-place finishes in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park and the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, respectively.


Shackleford shined during the month of May, winning the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Sprint and, in arguably the best performance of his career, taking a loaded edition of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park by a nose over Caleb’s Posse, with multiple-Grade 1 winner To Honor and Serve checking in third.


Given two months off following that grueling effort, the 4-year-old son of Forestry returned in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt in early August at Saratoga Race Course. Drawing the rail for his first attempt at six furlongs and his first try over a muddy track, Shackleford never factored and finished eighth.


The Kelso marked his first race in nearly two months, and sets him up for his final start, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on November 3 at Santa Anita Park.


Another Romans horse likely headed to the Breeders’ Cup is Little Mike, who prompted the pace before fading badly to finish fifth by 28 ½ lengths in yesterday’s 1 ½-mile Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational.


“Little Mike just did not handle that ground at all,” Romans said. “But he came out of it good, and looks good, so we’ll regroup and head west.”


While five of his 11 victories have been at the mile distance, Little Mike’s two Grade 1 wins came in the 1 1/8-mile Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the 1 ¼-mile Arlington Million. Romans expressed some concern in dropping him back in distance for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, but seemed to be leaning in that direction.


“We’re going to take Little Mike home and figure out what might be next,” Romans said. “We might try to back up and go to the [Breeders’ Cup] Mile if we can get him to put in a couple of sharp works and show me that he’s going to be quick enough to handle it.”


Romans’ other entrant in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, the 3-year-old Finnegans Wake, was outrun early and finished fourth by 14 ½ lengths.


“Finnegans Wake didn’t handle the course very well, but he was a little up against it going against older horses for the first time going a mile and a half,” Romans said. “His best races are ahead of him. He’s going to get better with age.”


Another of Romans’ 3-year-old contingent, Dullahan, worked five furlongs in 1:00.44 over the Belmont Park main track in preparation for a start in next Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Jamaica.


“Dullahan worked super this morning; really good,” said Romans. “All systems are go for the Jamaica, he is ready to roll.”


Owned by Donegal Racing, Dullahan will be looking for back-to-back Grade 1 scores, most recently defeating top older horse Game On Dude in Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic.


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