Rubber Match Is On

Exercise Rider Tammy Fox breezes Shackleford at Belmont Park

Going into this weekend it was clear that Shackleford’s bid for the third leg of the Triple Crown would not be decided until after his 5 Furlong breeze over the main track at Belmont Park this morning.  After the Preakness winner finished in 1:00.37, it was apparent that Shackleford couldn’t give Trainer Dale Romans any hints or reasons to think that he wasn’t ready for the Belmont Stakes one week from today.  Following the work, Dale Romans put it very simply, “It’s a Go”, and so it is.  The Belmont Stakes is the stage for the Rubber Match between our Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, and Preakness winner, Shackleford, in what should be quite an exciting Final Showdown. 

There was a lot to like in his workout today besides his final 5 Furlong time.  With fractions of 12.47, 24.51, and 36.11 through the first 3 furlongs, exercise rider Tammy Fox asked a little bit of him and the colt responded by coming home in 24.26 over the final 2 Furlongs.  Shackleford has continued to surprise and excite trainer Dale Romans with the amount of energy the colt has shown following both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.  Dale also hasn’t been shy when talking about how his colt seems to be holding form and continuing to possibly improve.  After his work this morning, it also was confirmed that Shackleford has taken to the Belmont track and handled it very well.

As for our Kentucky Derby Champion, the colt is scheduled to arrive at Belmont on Sunday and head out onto the main track Monday for his final work.  Animal Kingdom was out and about today at Fair Hill, galloping a 1 1/2 Mile over the true dirt surface.  Trainer Graham Motion is also very content with his horse.  While Shackleford is showing signs of a horse that is getting better, there isn’t any reason that Motion should think, unlike the Preakness Stakes, his colt won’t have the upper hand down the stretch.

Which brings us to what everyone is going to be talking about over the next 7 days: Pace and Distance.  The pace going in and coming out of the final turn before tackling the Belmont stretch will hold a lot of weight in the rubber match.  The Belmont Stakes is the longest race of the three legs in the triple crown and comparisons to this years Preakness Stakes are without a doubt going to have to be considered.  There’s no doubt about it that Shackleford ran the best race that day and jockey Jesus Castanon made all the right moves to put his horse in the winners circle.  However, that was the Preakness Stakes.  Next Saturday’s race at a 1 1/2 Mile and a stretch run that measures 1,097 feet from final turn to wire, will definitely be on your mind as you handicap and make your picks.  It’s going to be quite interesting to analyze what moves we think both horses are going to make to win and ultimately claim the Rubber Match.

Now that we’ve officially made it inside of 1 week before the 143rd Belmont Stakes, there will be a lot to go over in the coming days.  Our first Rubber Match since 2005 will bring a good amount of excitement to a race that can potentially lead to another great Triple Crown rivalry for the ages.  However, while it’s good for each race to have its own headliner before the race, as in all sports, that headline can change quickly.  As the rest of the field, that is likely to exceed 12 horses, comes together and the post positions are determined, we will also have to keep an eye on the potential spoilers that may be looming.

Written by: Little Brink

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