Updated 08/05/2012 08:09 PM
The Spa Spot: Shackleford last in muddy Vanderbilt
Multiple Grade 1 winner Shackleford finished last, nine lengths behind Poseidon's Warrior, winner of the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Sunday on the muddy track at Saratoga Race Course.
Poseidon's Warrior, trained by Robert Reid Jr. and ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., edged Justin Phillip by a neck in the Grade 1 race and paid $74.50. Emcee was another neck back in third.
It was Reid's first Grade 1 victory and the second for Ortiz, who picked up his first two weeks ago.
“I told the jock to ride him out of the gate if he wanted because sometimes in New York they’ll give you the lead," Reid said, "but when he saw the others go out he did the right thing and laid back off them and let him settle.”
Starting from the rail under jockey John Velazquez, Shackleford moved into a stalking position on the backstretch, but never was able to get into contention and dropped back on the turn.
“I didn’t expect him to run like that, but he’s 0-for-3 in the mud," trainer Dale Romans said. "That’s the only excuse we can make for him. Johnny said when he held him together he was moving along fine. Soon as he dropped his head, it was like he was spinning his wheels. Getting beat a nose or getting beat a neck, you think you’re going to have the best horse. Getting beat that far, something is wrong, and this time I’m just going to blame the racetrack. They had it in as good shape as they possibly can with that much rain today.”
Romans had planned to bring the 4-year-old colt to Saratoga for the Grade 1 seven-furlong Forego on September. But when the Met Mile winner began training sharply in Kentucky this summer, Roman decided to race him in the six-furlong Vanderbilt. Shackleford drew rail in the eight-horse field and a deluge earlier in the afternoon produced a wet track.
“You never want to have the one hole," Romans said. "You’re going to get a lot of dirt down there if you don’t clear the field. It wasn’t the best circumstances. Johnny said he felt good; he came back good. He’s thrown a few clunkers at me before, and usually it’s been surface related. He is kind of finicky about what he runs on, and it’s been the only thing he’s been finicky about.”
Romans said the Forego is still on his schedule.
“I asked [Velazquez] if he wanted to ride him back, and he said, ‘Keep me on. Just draw a line through the race. He never ran. We’ll try ‘em again in the Forego,’" Romans said. "But I don’t think I’ll ever run him back on a sloppy racetrack, no matter the circumstances.”
Velazquez said the track had everything to do with the colt's performance.
“The first two jumps, I knew right away," Velazquez said. "He jumped out of there, he didn’t grab onto the bit. I put him into the race, and he did not want to go there. Finally I got a hold of him going to the half-mile pole. He felt comfortable, I was holding him, but as soon as I gave him his head again to try to put him into the race again, he let go right away. He was not comfortable. Seeing the way he’d run on a wet [track previously], I was a little bit concerned…and he proved today, I guess, that he doesn’t like it."