Here's a heartwarming story for you: an eclectic group of friends brought together from a shared love for Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Shackleford will now campaign a homebred offspring by that stallion.
Dubbed the "Shackettes" the Shackleford enthusiasts connected via Facebook during the son of Forestry's decorated campaign, during which he also won the Carter Handicap (gr. I), Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II), and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Shackettes and friends at Penn National racetrack. From right to left: Peggy Murray, Maria Knack, George Tuccio, Debi Tuccio, Dawn Newman, Donna Casey, Doris Dunigan, Becca Templeton, Drew Templeton, Mary Keener. Photos courtesy of Doris Dunigan
Last February, the Shackettes gathered in Lexington from all corners of the country to visit Shackleford upon his retirement from racing at Darby Dan Farm.
One of the members of the group, Dawn Newman, keeps a few mares at her Fox Tale Stud near Coopersburg, Pa., and had talked with some fellow Shackettes about breeding and racing a Shackleford foal together. The group was initially disappointed when they were told Shackleford's book was already full for the year, but they were in for a pleasant surprise when they arrived in Kentucky.
"While we were at Darby Dan, the manager said Shackleford had been breeding phenomenally and his conception rate was really high, so he said he could open the book up for us," Newman said. "We were all dumbfounded--we were pretty much crying with happiness and couldn't wait."
The partners selected Newman's Full Mandate mare Suzy's Mandate to breed to Shackleford, but before she had even visited the stallion, a name for her future foal had already been selected.
"We all loved the name Unshackled--it was a play on (Shackleford's) grandsire Unbridled," Newman explained. "So we had it reserved it from The Jockey Club for two years."
It seemed fitting that during Suzy's Mandate's trip to Kentucky to be bred, she was boarded at Marty Takacs' Belvedere Farm near Paris, Ky., the same farm where Shackleford was born and raised. After she was confirmed in foal, the mare was sent back to Newman's farm in Pennsylvania. Suzy's Mandate's Shackleford foal, a filly, was born on Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) day, May 2.
Suzy's Mandate and Unshackled
"I know we made the right choice (by breeding Suzy's Mandate to Shackleford)--this filly is perfection," Newman said. "She's conformationally beautiful and her mind is very strong willed. She has determination and independence. I hope she has the same heart as her dad."
Shack Baby Productions members Doris Dunigan (top) and Debi Tuccio (bottom) meet Unshackled
Newman first became infatuated with Shackleford when trainer Dale Romans invited her to watch him work one morning at Saratoga Race Course during the summer of 2012.
"I was enamored by him--his personality--how sweet he was, his stature, conformation, strength, and mind," Newman said of the horse, who was bred and raced by Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge. "He just had everything. Of course I loved him in the Preakness, which was a phenomenal race to watch, but in every race you saw sheer determination in that horse. To me, that's something you want to pass on to a baby."
Newman and Shackleford
Newman said the Shackettes plan to race Unshackled under the name Shack Baby Productions. The filly is slated to be sent to Web Carroll's Training Center near St. Matthews, S.C., the same place her sire was broken and trained. After that, Newman hopes Romans will have space in his barn for the filly.
"I think (Shack Baby Productions) is a great promotion for the racing industry, because it's a reasonable partnership," Newman said, adding that she had divided the filly into 50 modestly-priced shares, and a few are still available.
Shack Baby Productions is currently comprised of Mary Keener of Texas; Doris Dunigan of Ohio; Debi Tuccio and Maria Knack of New York; Becca and Drew Templeton of Iowa; Kari and Robert Clark of Oregon; Chuck MacNamara of Pennsylvania; Dennis and Barb Pohl, Gary Agne, and Mike Vahl of Missouri; Mark and Judy Weston of Connecticut; and Frank Hellwig of Japan.
Tuccio is a screenwriter and is currently documenting the Shackette's story in hopes it may someday make it to the silver screen.
Shack Baby Productions group at Newman's Fox Tale Stud over Memorial Day weekend
For more information and photos of Unshackled, visit the website: http://www.shackbabyproductions.com/ and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UnshackledtheHorse
Who is your favorite Thoroughbred because of his or her partnership connections? Leave a comment below for a chance to win an OTTB-related prize!
I have some 100-day Thoroughbred Challenge shirts from the Retired Racehorse Training Project, a couple of New Vocations t-shirts, and a few hats from various OTTB organizations. The winner will take his or her pick!
Unshackled doing what she loves best