The rubber match is set: Preakness winner Shackleford is ready to take on Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in next Saturday's $1 million Belmont Stakes.
Shackleford passed his final test Saturday morning with a sharp 5-furlong workout at Belmont Park. Trainer Dale Romans said that as long as the colt comes out of the work in good shape, "he will run" in the final leg of the Triple Crown.
"I am excited he's doing so well and coming into the race the right way," Romans said, "I think he's going to be very competitive."
It will be the first time the Derby and Preakness winners hook up in the Belmont since 2005, when Preakness winner Afleet Alex beat Derby winner Giacomo.
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"It's fun to get a rivalry started (with Animal Kingdom)," Romans said. "It's good for racing. ...
"I think he will handle the (1½ -mile) distance. Under the right scenario, he will be fine. You would think (he would be on the lead). He's been on the lead the last two races. I don't know who's going to jump in and try to get in front of him."
Shackleford, with exercise rider Tammy Fox aboard, covered 5 furlongs in 1:00.30.
"I wanted to see him work his normal work, and he did today," Romans said of the 3-year-old son of Forestry. "I thought he went around there really well, and it looked like he did everything the way he was supposed to."
Entries and post positions will be drawn Wednesday. A field of 13 is shaping up for the 1½ -mile race.
Animal Kingdom is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park early Sunday morning and will gallop over the main track in advance of Monday's final workout for the Belmont Stakes, trainer Graham Motion said.
Santiva works at Churchill
Santiva tuned up for a run in next weekend's Belmont with a strong 5-furlong work on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The Eddie Kenneally-trained son of Giant's Causeway worked 5 furlongs over a fast track in 1:01 with assistant trainer Brendan Walsh in the saddle.
Santiva, who didn't run in the Preakness, breezed in fractional times of :13, :25.20 and :36.80 and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:14.40. His gallop-out time was faster than either of the day's two 6-furlong works.
"I'm very happy with him," Kenneally said. "He hasn't missed a beat since the Derby. He's been on schedule and has had a good four weeks and, hopefully, he'll have another good week until we get to the Belmont."
The winner of Churchill's Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes is scheduled to ship on Tuesday to Belmont Park.
The Belmont Stakes will be the fourth start of the year for Santiva, who opened the season with a promising runner-up finish to likely Belmont rival Mucho Macho Man in the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds. But he encountered major traffic in his final Derby prep — a ninth-place finish in Keeneland's Blue Grass.
"He didn't get everything out of the Blue Grass that we had wanted," Kenneally said. "He got a little bit tired, perhaps, in the Derby. He's a horse that's done well since then, and we're happy enough with the way he ran on Derby Day."
No decision on Harlan's Hello
Kharag Stables' Harlan's Hello breezed at Belmont Park Saturday morning, but trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal has yet to decide whether the colt will join stablemate Isn't He Perfect in the Belmont Stakes. With Rajiv Maragh aboard, Harlan's Hello went 4 furlongs in 51.89. The move was Harlan's Hello second official workout following his nose victory in a 11⁄16-mile optional claimer at Belmont on May 13.