ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Trainer Dale Romans calls Shackleford his best shot for a win in the Breeders’ Cup this weekend at Santa Anita.
“He’s definitely our most live horse,” Romans said of the winner of the Metropolitan Mile in May and the 2011 Preakness. “All of our horses are coming into the races doing well, and all have chances. I think he’s the closest to one that should win.”
Romans has five entries but Shackleford looks like the standout. He is the 2-1 favorite in the $1 million Dirt Mile on Saturday, looking to improve on his second-place finish in the race last year.
After his brilliant win in the Met Mile, Shackleford caught wet tracks his next two starts, running eighth in his comeback at Saratoga before a second-place effort in the Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park in late September.
“I think the Kelso showed him coming back to himself,” Romans said. “He ran on a sloppy track that day. It was more wet than people thought it was. He came back coated in mud. He showed himself, he showed his fight to hang on for second. It makes me think he’s back to his best.”
The Dirt Mile is just one event during the two-day, $25 million championships starting on Friday.
Game On Dude was made the early 9-5 favorite in a field of 12 for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, a race he led most of the way last year before being overtaken in the closing strides. This time, he’ll have home-field advantage running at Santa Anita, where the 5-year-old gelding is 5-0.
He will try to deliver a first-time victory in the Classic for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
“He’s a better horse this year,” Baffert said Monday, when Game On Dude drew the No. 5 post for the 1 1/4-mile Classic. “He seems more relaxed. He’s getting better with age.”
Baffert is taking two shots at winning the $2 million Juvenile with Power Broker and Title Contender. They’ll be facing stiff competition in undefeated Shanghai Bobby, the 2-1 favorite trained by Todd Pletcher. The Juvenile winner is typically tagged as the winter favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
Shanghai Bobby was one of nine New York-based horses scheduled to arrive Tuesday, but the flight has been pushed back to Wednesday because of Hurricane Sandy, which slammed into the New York metropolitan area Monday.
Shanghai Bobby will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, who has been aboard for each of the 2-year-old colt’s four victories this year. She could join Julie Krone as the only women to win a Breeders’ Cup race in the event’s 28-year history. Shanghai Bobby will face eight rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race.
Royal Delta, the defending Ladies’ Classic champion trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, sustained a minor cut on her right thigh while being loaded on a flight from upstate New York on Monday. He said the cut was stitched up and she should be fine.
“It’s no different than a hockey player getting a little cut on his forehead and getting stitched up,” Mott said. “They’re athletes.”
Royal Delta was entered in the Ladies’ Classic on Friday instead of running against the boys in the Classic on Saturday. She is the 9-5 favorite under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who won last year’s Classic on Drosselmeyer.
Awesome Feather, undefeated in 10 career starts, was the 3-1 second choice; undefeated My Miss Aurelia and Britain-bred Questing were the 4-1 co-third choices in the field of eight.
Romans said Pacific Classic winner Dullahan will run in the $3 million Turf rather than the Classic, where he had been pre-entered. Arlington Million winner Little Mike, also trained by Romans, will go in the Turf after being considered for the $2 million Mile.
The world championships open Friday with six races. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino owns South Floyd, who drew post four in the seven-horse $500,000 Juvenile Sprint.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees co-owns Worth Repeating in the $500,000 Marathon, which drew a full field of 14.
Saturday’s nine races include the $1 million Turf Sprint, with Mizdirection among the 16-horse field. He’s co-owned by sports talk radio host Jim Rome.