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Two hundred thousand dollars isn’t what it used to be.
But it’s the special sum a thoroughbred trained in Goshen won in graded stakes earnings after his second-place finish in Sunday’s $1 million Florida Derby.
Dale Romans, who owns a thoroughbred training facility off Liberty Lane in Goshen, hopes it’s enough to send his horse, Shackleford, to the Kentucky Derby this year.
“We’re right on the cuff. There’s five prep races left before Derby, and I’m just hoping we don’t get leap-frogged by too many horses. Right now we’re on the Top 20 list.”
The list trainer Dale Romans speaks of is the list of eligible starters.
Only 20 horses will qualify for the Kentucky Derby and they are selected based on highest graded stakes earnings.
Shackleford has only competed in one other graded stakes race, the Fountain of Youth, a race that Romans says should be thrown out.
“Shackleford lunged in the starting gate and banged his head before the race,” he said. “That’s the only reason he didn’t run good. We act like it never happened.”
Shackleford may be near the bottom of the list with qualifying earnings, but this late bloomer took many by surprise with a gutsy performance, as he nearly stole the race.
At odds of 60-1, Shackleford set the pace early and led the entire mile-and-an-eighth, only to begrudgingly give up the lead in his final strides to the late-closing Dialed In. He lost by a head, giving Dialed In an additional $600,000 to his graded stakes credit, which places him second on the list of 20.
“Shackleford keeps improving and the extra distance in the Kentucky Derby will only help him. He deserves to compete with this kind of company,” Romans said.
Of the 30 qualifying prep races in the United States, only four have a purse of $1 million or greater.
Since its inception in 1952, the Florida Derby has not only been a key prep race but also a key predictor, as 16 horses have finished in the top three of this race and gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.
With such a large purse at stake, it brings out some of the stiffest competition nationwide.
Of the eight horses who competed in Sunday’s race, five were already graded stakes winners.
To date, it has been the most competitive prep race held, a race that Dialed In’s owner, Robert LaPenta, dubbed, “a mini-Kentucky Derby.”
If he draws into the race, Shackleford should have more respectable odds than 60-1.
“No one can predict morning-line odds, but I’d say he’ll be about 12-1 or 15-1,” Romans said. “So far, I think our biggest competition is Uncle Mo and Dialed in, and they’re 1-2 on the graded earnings’ list.”
Morning-line odds for last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver, were 15-1. He also trained in Oldham County as a 2-year-old. On May 7, Dale Romans will try to replicate the Oldham County triumph with Shackleford.
“Even though I keep my main string of horses at Churchill Downs, I’ve been based in Goshen for three years,” he said. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to own land here. Not only is it one of the best places in Kentucky to train horses, but it’s also one of the best places to live.”
Story by Janell Oliver. E-mail us about this story at: firstname.lastname@example.org.