I remember the first time I saw Shakespeare. It was the day of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2005, and I’d headed out to Belmont with a couple of fellow English teacher friends, and he, along with English Channel, was running in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. We bet to win, we bet the exacta, we hit both. Easy game.
The win was Shakespeare’s fifth in a row; owned by his breeder Dell Ridge Farm in partnership with William Schettine, in whose silks he ran, the bay horse was undefeated, and en route to that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, also held at Belmont, he’d earned his first Grade 1 win in the Hirsch Classic.
A son of 1997 Eclipse Turf champion Theatrical (IRE), Shakespeare is out of the Grade 1 winner Lady Shirl. Offered at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale, he failed to meet his reserve, bringing a final bid of $140,000. Later that year, Schettine purchased a half-interest in him.
Like the course of true love, the course to the racetrack seldom runs smoothly, and Shakespeare didn’t debut until the winter of 2004, when he was three. Two wins, both at Gulfstream Park, both by impressive margins, and Shakespeare was back on the shelf, away from the track for 16 months.
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