Haskin's Derby Report: Shack Attack

It has been stated here on several occasions how well Shackleford has looked each morning in his gallops and his dominating physical presence. How that equates to his performance on Saturday is anyone’s guess, just as it is with every other horse in the race.

With a 30 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms Friday and Saturday, it may be time to start thinking about handicapping the race for an off track, just in case one those storms happens to find its way to Churchill Downs.

The two obvious horses based on past performances are Soldat, who won a 1 1/8-mile allowance race in the slop at Gulfstream by 10 ¾ lengths, earning a 103 Beyer speed figure, the highest Beyer fig by any Derby horse this year, and Pants on Fire, who broke his maiden by seven lengths in the slop at Delaware Park last year. Another horse who would move up in the slop is Sunland Derby (gr. III) winner Twice the Appeal, who won over a wet fast track at Santa Anita, and who has a terrific “slop” cross with the Valid Appeal/In Reality line on top and the His Majesty line on the bottom.

Which brings us back to Shackleford, whose pedigree is inundated with slop influences. In addition to having Pleasant Colony/His Majesty on top, he is inbred to In Reality on the bottom and inbred top and bottom to Dr. Fager, who relished the slop and is a major slop influence. In fact, if you go back one more generation, he is inbred three times to Dr. Fager’s dam Aspidistra, twice through Dr. Fager and once through her daughter Magic, a daughter of another major slop influence Buckpasser.

If you go to Shackleford’s tail-female line, you will find Tamerett, the dam of Tentam, who won the Met Mile (gr. I) in the slop, and Speak John, who is a yet another major slop influence from the Elmendorf Farm family and the sire of mud lover Verbatim.

He also has a strong 418 Tomlinson wet-track figure. The highest Tomlinson figure in the field goes to Twice the Appeal, with a 423. By the way, did we mention that Twice the Appeal is being ridden by Calvin Borel, who has won the last two Kentucky Derbys in the slop?

With his running style, Shackleford could run a Smarty Jones-type race on a sealed sloppy track, where speed often holds up. But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves, considering the weather forecast changes around here constantly. But it is good to know just in case we are indeed confronted with an off track.

If we are, you want to pay close attention to Shackleford, Twice the Appeal, Soldat, and Pants on Fire, and, yes, Uncle Mo, who has a number of slop influences, especially in his female family through Delta Judge, Cyane, and Rollicking. You will find Cyane in the pedigree of Smart Strike, sire of Curlin, who romped in the slop in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). and Uncle Mo has a 419 Tomlinson number, second to Twice the Appeal.

Now that we’ve just assured a fast track for Derby Day, let’s briefly get back to Shackleford, who not only has flashed excellent speed both sprinting and routing, but has shown a great deal of maturity with each race. That he was able to make the jump from a seven-furlong maiden race to a 1 1/8-mile allowance race and win as impressively as he did, despite racing greenly, shows what kind of ability he has. And he has on two occasions demonstrated his heart and willingness to fight by coming again after being passed in his maiden victory and by battling back when confronted by Dialed In in the Florida Derby (gr. I). And you had to love how strongly he galloped out in that race.

If you are concerned by his Fountain of Youth (gr. II) performance, he was not the only horse to run an inexplicably bad race in a major Gulfstream prep this year, and he did get worked up in the starting gate and banged his head to the extent that jockey Jesus Castanon said he appeared to be in a daze and had nothing that day. The fact that he bounced back with such a powerful performance against the early Kentucky Derby favorite in the Florida Derby makes that a throw-out race.

He then came to Churchill Downs and turned in a pair of bullet works, one in 1:00 1/5 breezing in the slop and his final work in a blazing :58 4/5. And he has put in powerful gallops every days since.

So, with a decent post and a good stalking trip, all the ingredients are there for a big performance on Saturday.

Who is catching the eye

We’ll just focus on a few of the horses who caught the eye this morning, as the horses finally had an opportunity to gallop over a fast track. Despite his lack of dirt form and only four career starts, Animal Kingdom, who we wrote about extensively on Monday, is looking better by the day, physically and in his gallops. He is looking more and more now like the “now” horse. If he can incorporate that into dirt form we’re looking at a live longshot.

The other horse who looked terrific this morning and who turned in his best gallop to date is Pants On Fire, who we also wrote about extensively last week. He was really into the bit and full of life as he glided over the track with powerful strides.

Archarcharch galloped by himself this morning after yesterday’s gallop/work and is still looking strong out there.


Leave a Comment:


Shakleford huh? Looks like you have been talking to Steve Byk?

I too have been giving this horse a long hard look. By the way he has trained he looks like he is ready to take another step forward.

If the track comes up wet I'm all in on him and Pant's On Fire.

04 May 2011 2:50 PM

Steve- I said it in an earlier post,you are my eyes on the backstretch @ Churchill. Above you have validated every horse I'm considering for inclusion in my Derby betting (except MMM, who has such a great story!) You also have convinced me to reconsider Twice the Appeal. I was looking because of Borel but now I will definitely build a "sloppy" track ticket.

04 May 2011 2:57 PM

Shack is something of the wild card in the Derby I think. Not sure he can duplicate that strong effort he showed in his last race but if he does he will make it very difficult for some others.

04 May 2011 3:04 PM

Luv ANIMAL KINGDOM have a 200 dollar future bet.  going key on top 7 horses in DERBY including TWINSPIRED and SHACKLEFORD

04 May 2011 3:13 PM

Shackleford reminds me of, to a lesser extent, Curlin. Big size, grind-it-out style. I don't think he will out-gun Comma To The Top  for the lead, but he should be placed forward nicely and have first shot at the top of the lane. I don't know if he will last the entire trip, but one thing is for sure - he is pretty stubborn to give up that lead once he has it. It showed in his allowance win and in the Florida Derby.

04 May 2011 3:41 PM

Pants on Fire is one of two horses to run 9 panels under 1.50 the other being Midnight Interlude at Santa Anita's speeddrome.La Derby was the best prep in my opinion where he dug in to hold off two hily regarded horses in this race.He will be at astronimical odds.I have a gut feeling this horse is going to make many tear up tickets.

04 May 2011 7:00 PM

thanks again Steve, I personally am going to be keing Soldat and Pants on Fire with a long look at Brilliant Speed. It will be one helluva race, and as an aside, if Pletcher can get Uncle Mo to the gate and run a competitive race, I will tip my hat to the connections as one of the best "rope a dopes" since "grilled" Georgie. Luck to all!

04 May 2011 8:35 PM
The Deacon

Out of curiousity Steve, who do you like or have you made a decision as yet?

04 May 2011 9:03 PM

I will be looking for an improving horse like Shackleford. Derby winners usually have a Beyer figure over 100 at 9f on the resume but this field is pretty weak. The payouts could be huge. I'll pick one horse and single him in 1,2 and 3rd with a 9x8 in the other two slots on a Tri. Cost: $214. Can you say 700K?LOL.

04 May 2011 9:44 PM


I just wanted to compliment your excellent coverage of this year's Derby. Lots of eye-opening articles and interesting insights. Thank you.

Bill Lathrop

04 May 2011 10:11 PM

After the PP draw my horses are Pants on fire Master of Hounds and Dialed in.The best of the rest are either stuck on the rail or in the Aux gate

05 May 2011 12:38 AM

Animal Kingdom defeated Decisive Moment in the 9F Spiral and the closing 3F was timed in 39.75. No horse that closes that slowly will win the derby irrespective of how good it looks. He benefited from a 21.94 second quarter the fastest time recorded in a 2011 derby prep.  The 3rd quarter of the Spiral was run in 27.06 the slowest time recorded in 2011 derby prep. He will benefit from those types of fractions and therefore has not chance of winning.

Pants On Fire has too many derby negative to overcome and is not as good as is made out to be. Who did he defeat in his last race? The slow MMM and a fast closing maiden winner. That is not enough qualification to win the derby. He could be working like a train he does not fit the profile of a derby winner.

Archarcharch has a feel good family affair story. However he will not win the derby. No stallion that has ever double with Breeder Cup Classic winner followed by derby winner. Mr. Pletcher’s Allowance winner finished very close to AAA and that an indication he is not that good.  

05 May 2011 1:01 AM


If Derby Kitten is training a CD I would appreciate your views on his work outs and condition. I think he is an extremely live contender. His derby prep was the best for 2011 as he was the only horse geared down at the end of any of the preps. All other derby prep winners in the field were fully extended. Those that did not win their final preps were also fully extended. The last 16th of the Lexington was timed in 5.93 with him in hand. If the final time for the Lexington of 1:42.03 if extrapolated to 9F using the time for the final 16th he would have covered 9F in 1:47.86. This time would be the fastest for the distance on any surface. Such a time is unheard of on the Keeneland surface His sire Kitty’s Joy won or place in multiple 12F & 10F races and it appear he has inherited his sire stamina. He will beone of the exotics wager horses

05 May 2011 1:36 AM

How odd.  This morning when I woke up, the remnants of a dream lingered...and the Derby winner...in the dream...was Shackleford.  Now, although in my top 10, he was not in my top 5.  Well bred, I really thought he had his best run in the Fla Derby...where Dialed In nipped him at the wire.  My favorite remains Pants On Fire with Rosie.  Although his post position seems ideal, he has the erratic CTTT on his inside, a horse that could push him out of the running.  Poor Archx3, another favorite, drew Gate 1....aaaargh!  He is a worthy contender, but will be forced to spurt out too quickly or get shuffled back.  Midnight Interlude has so little experience, but I still like him.  MMM, Dialed In and Nehro complete my top 6.  However, with Calvin Borel drawing Gate 3, who knows what will happen when Twice The appeal starts moving?  I've learned to pay close attention to my dreams, but in this case, Shackleford just never entered my mind as the winner.  Who knows?  Perhaps I should just wish a safe trip to all, and hope for the best. But I really believe that POF and Archx3 cover ground as though they were floating on air...they're simply elegant to watch. (Go Rosie! and Jon!)  

05 May 2011 7:51 AM

I should have added, one of the most unpublicized horses, Stay Thirsty, just may be the sleeper who can steal the wire.  

Unbridled won the Derby, his son, Grindstone won the Derby, his son, Birdstone won the Belmont, his sons, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird won the Derby and Belmont respectively.  Unbridled is the dam sire of Shackleford.  That's one heck of a family tree! without even bringing in Secretariat in his sire line.

05 May 2011 8:03 AM
Indiana Johnny

Steve, I wasn't sure who your and Lenny's picks were in the latest video from the track was?

I thought maybe you picked AAA, and Lenny picked MOA, is that correct? Thanks for clearing up.

05 May 2011 8:30 AM


that is fine you dont like POF or think the La Darby was a dud race.I'll stay with the 7 horse and you can have the ones in the aux gate and the rail lol.Of my picks i am weary of Dialed In if it's sloppy and the traffic problem, even though he has a good draw he falls back in the early stages and will have to run through the wall.I see Comma to the Top Master of Hounds and Pants on Fire into the first turn and then catch me if you can with Comma fading at the 1/4 pole.

05 May 2011 12:05 PM
The Deacon

Steve:  Your picking ArchX3 from the number 1 post, surprised you would be doing that. Can't see that horse winning this race.

Let's all throw a dart and see what horse it sticks on........

05 May 2011 12:57 PM

Just watched your Derby show, Steve, and really enjoyed the tour of Churchill.  My problem with picking a horse this year is that because there is no stand out colt, I find I like quite a few for very different reasons.  And, can't settle on even 5 in any specific order.  It seems to me that several are peaking right about now.  Your reports on their looks and how they are handling the track are very valuable.  I truly believe that it will totally come down to who feels best when they wake up Sat.  I was liking Nehro a few days ago but am now leaning a bit toward Shackleford and Mucho Macho Man.  I like ArchArchArch but his post position is a problem.  Waiting for more info in Master of Hounds.  

It's kind of nice not to feel any confusion over the fillies.  I love Joyful Victory.  So, thanks, Steve, for all your wonderful information.  Keep it coming!

05 May 2011 2:28 PM


05 May 2011 4:45 PM


05 May 2011 4:48 PM

Shakleford is a good horse but he could'nt hold off Dialed In going 9F so i cant see him in the mix going 10 and having to run early for position from the outside,that's alot for him to overcome with speed to his inside,the last 100yds he's gonna want to get in the jockey ambulance.Later in the season he'll be good.

06 May 2011 10:30 AM

I thought Shackleford ran a very credible race. It looked like he was going to take it when he cut the corner very nicely turning for home and then hang on for a piece when he hit the 8th pole. He didn't win or hit the board, but I got a good run for my money.

Where the heck were all the speed horses?

09 May 2011 8:29 AM

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