Then there is the Preakness winner, Shackleford. He definitely is nice to look at and moves well over the track. In all honesty, I didn’t think much of him prior to the Preakness, but he definitely has shown incremental improvement in his latest few races. His tactical speed appears to be a big plus in a race that doesn’t have a whole lot of early running types to speak of, and although his sire doesn’t scream distance, his female line definitely offers Classic quality. Also, not to be overlooked in the Belmont is the freshness factor. Shackleford is by no means a little slight and delicate flower (think more L L Cool J), and appears to have negotiated the grueling Triple Crown looking no worse for his efforts. However, we won’t really know how much his top notch recent efforts have taken out of him until he hits that long Belmont stretch..
|Animal Kingdom Sherackatthetrack Photo|
Master of Hounds is another horse that exceeded my expectations in the Derby. Third in Group 1 company in England last year, the bay came home sixth–beaten only three lengths–in the GII BC Juvenile Turf. A nose back in second on the synthetic in the G2 UAE Derby, he was far back in the early going of the Derby, negotiated his way through the mass of horseflesh and got up for fifth, beaten 5 ½ lengths. He’s been off since that effort, which is positive, however, all the flying back and forth from Europe has to take something out of a horse. In any case, I’m not sure he’s good enough to win, but could definitely get a piece of it.
|Shackleford Sherackatthetrack Photo|
I think the point is, regardless of whether a trainer brings a fresh horse or one that has danced every dance, it comes down to how well he or she knows his/her horse. Stephens knew what worked best for him, and Lukas knew what worked for his operation. On Saturday, we will see who will establish their recipe for Belmont success.