There are few automatic bets in the Backstretch world. There are the Cats and Kittens, of course, and sometimes horses or trainers I’ve recently profiled, and often the longest price in a short field. But perhaps the most inviolable of these is the “If you pet the horse, bet the horse” maxim…which I ignored on Sunday afternoon, and it cost me dearly.

On Sunday morning, I wandered Dale Romans’ shedrow, looking for Tapitsfly, to offer a mint or two in celebration of her win on Saturday afternoon. Unimpressed, she eschewed my mints and tried to bite me, for which I might have forgiven her had Sunday turned out differently.

Walking past the stalls, an enormous horse with a face-conquering blaze caught my attention. It was Shackleford, entered in that afternoon’s Florida Derby, morning line 20-1. That line was generous, given his post time odds of nearly 70-1.

He was far gentler than his filly stablemate; it was race day and so he couldn’t have treats, but he didn’t mind. He welcomed my visit, standing placidly, sniffing curiously, calmly leaning into a hand on neck. He is a gentle giant.

Shackleford, Sunday morning

Later that day, about 20 minutes before the race, I had my customary Backstretch ADW conversation with Papa Backstretch; who needs NYRA Rewards or Twinspires when he has me? “Bet $20 to win on Zito’s horse for me,” he said, “and bet something for yourself.”

I hadn’t planned to bet the race, but with wagering screen open, I thought, “Zito’s horse, of course, and Dale’s, and one more, in a $1 exacta box…” As I glanced at the field, I noticed the time…the horses were heading to the track, and I had pictures to take. I closed the account and raced down to the track.

And 10 minutes later, I watched, thrilled, as Dialed In gained on Shackleford in the stretch. I was thrilled because I was glad to see Zito win; I was thrilled because Papa Backstretch was cashing. And then I realized: I wasn’t.

Dialed In gains on Shackleford in the stretch

3-1 over 69-1 equals, in case you’re wondering, a $339.60 exacta. Congrats if you had it.

The day featured no dearth of exciting moments: Travelin Man earned his first graded stakes victory in the Swale; Little Mike won his third graded stakes race at this Gulfstream meet in the Appleton.  Capt. Candyman Can, a longtime Backstretch favorite, won the Sir Shackleton.

Capt. Candyman Can (outside) & Nathan's H Q in the stretch

If you were liking the Robert LaPenta/Nick Zito/Julien Leparoux combo, I hope that you had the 9th and 10th race double of S.S. Stone and Dialed In; it paid $45.40.

And no…in case you’re wondering, I didn’t have that one, either.

Videos of the weekend’s races below; click here for a photo album of Florida Derby day.

Click here for the Grade 3 Appleton.

2 thoughts on “Shackled

  1. Nice picture of Shackleford, something in his eyes reminds me of his great-great grandpa.

    Little Mike has been VERY impressive his last two races.

  2. Nice shot of Shackleford. Like that he is a “gentle giant”. It’s always interesting to hear something special about their character. Thanks for the insight.
    I thought he had a shot, but I didn’t bet flat. DUMB. I think he has some good races in him.

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