Shackleford, “A Fast Stayer”?

Congratulation!!!!! to all the connections of 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. The winner is by Forestry (by Storm Cat) out of Oatsee, by Unbridled. Oatsee posted a record on the track of 21-2-4-5 for earnings of $106,945 and was stakes placed. Prior to Shackleford Oatsee had already produced G1 winner Lady Joanne (by Orientate) and G3 winner Baghdaria (by Royal Academy).

So this is a pretty good pedigree, and give some credit to Unbridled for helping Shackleford to stretch his speed. I note that the fifth dam is Tamerett, which looks good on paper or on a computer screen.

When questioned about the Belmont Stakes, the connections of Shackleford were noticeably noncommital. Which means that his chances of running in the Belmont are probably pretty slim. That is a shame, in my opinion. I think Shackleford SHOULD run in the Belmont, and I will tell you why.

Shackleford strikes me as a “fast stayer.” What the heck is a “fast stayer”?, you inquire. A “fast stayer” is a horse who can gallop you to death all the way on the lead, never look back, and never get caught. Such a horse has good speed but is not “speed crazy.” Shackleford fits that description.

I first encountered the term “fast stayer” in Charles Hatton’s description of 1962 champion three-year-old Jaipur. That title was voted to Jaipur mainly on the strength of his victories that year in the Belmont and Travers Stakes (in an epic duel from start to finish over Ridan in the latter).

In that 1962 Belmont Jaipur sat just off the sensible pace (:24 1/5, :48 2/5, 1:12 1/5, 1:36 3/5, and 2:02 1/5) set by Admiral’s Voyage and just got up in the final strides to win by a nose over that rival in 2:28 4/5. This race was similar to Shackleford’s Preakness in that both winners sat just off a sensible pace and prevailed in the stretch.

Another example of a “fast stayer” was Riva Ridge, particularly in his victory in the 1972 Belmont. In that race Riva Ridge set all the pace (:23 4/5, :48, 1:12, 1:36 3/5, and 2:02 1/5) and had plenty left in the stretch to draw off to win by seven in 2:28. Again, the pace was not slow, but it was pretty sensible.

Swale just about duplicated Riva Ridge in winning the 1984 Belmont. The pace was a little slower (:24 4/5, :49 2/5, 1:13 3/5, 1:37 3/5, and 2:02 1/5). Swale set all that pace and had plenty left in the stretch to draw off to win by four in 2:27 1/5.

I have to throw Bold Forbes into the discussion here. Bold Forbes was more “crazy” than “sensible” when it came to speed, especially considering his regular rider was Angel Cordero Jr. Bold Forbes made all the pace (:23 4/5, :47, 1:11 1/5, 1:36, and 2:01 4/5) in the 1976 Belmont. He opened up by six at the quarter pole and still led by six at the eighth pole. After that he was life and death to hold off the late charges of McKenzie Bridge and Great Contractor, but hold them off he did, by a pair of necks in 2:29.

Just off the top of my head I can think of three other wire-to-wire winners of the Belmont–Secretariat (1973), Count Fleet (1943), and War Admiral (1937)—Triple Crown winners all.

Of course some of this is ancient history, and not all wire-to-wire Belmont winners are Hall of Fame material. Think back only three years ago to Da’ Tara, who started 11 times after wiring the 2008 Belmont and never won another race. Of course that was the Belmont and Triple Crown that Big Brown was supposed to have won. His trainer publicly stated that it was a “foregone conclusion” Big Brown would win that Belmont. A nice reminder that there are no “foregone conclusions” in horse racing, only probabilities.

So is Shackleford really in the same league with Jaipur, Riva Ridge, Swale, and Bold Forbes (champions all)????? Maybe, maybe not. The only way to find out is to run him in the Belmont. Which probably is not gonna happen. So we will never know. And that is a shame.

I am not saying that if Shackleford were to run in the Belmont I would cash in my life savings, run to the mutuel windows, and put it all on his nose to win. That all depends on the odds. What I am saying is that I think Shackleford has a much better chance of winning the Belmont, especially a Belmont in which he can control a sensible pace, than most people do. Including his own connections.

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2 Responses to Shackleford, “A Fast Stayer”?

  1. Double Jay says:

    Very encouraging info about this horse. You should send this to Mr. Roman & the owner to chew on while making their decision. Any thoughts on why he ran short in the Derby?

  2. ddink55 says:

    Yes, I do have some thoughts about why Shackleford came up short in the Derby. Basically because he ran the first six furlongs (1:13.40) too SLOW.

    That probably seems counterintuitive, to say the least. But as Hatton would say, these things require a delicate calculus.

    The whole idea of setting a fast pace is to “soften up” your rivals. The faster the pace you set, the more you “soften up” those chasing you most closely, and the more you set it up for those FAR off the pace. The slower the pace you set, the less you “soften up” anyone else in the field, and the more difficult you make it for anyone to rally from far back to win.

    I think what happened in the Derby is that Shackleford set such a slow pace (six furlongs in 1:13.40) that no one was “softened up” at all. I think what happened in the Preakness is that Shackleford tracked a pace that was “perfect” for his purposes (six furlongs in 1:12.01). It was fast enough to “soften up” those close to the pace. It was slow enough not to help the closers much. I think Shackleford might have won the Derby if he had run the first six furlongs in about 1:12 (instead of 1:13.40).

    “Only my opinion; I could be right or wrong.”

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