Shackleford’s Final Race: Clark or Cigar Mile

Trainer Dale Romans is weighing which Grade 1 on Thanksgiving weekend will be Shackleford’s final outing before the 4-year-old son of Forestry is retired to stud at Darby Dan Farm.


Shackleford is returning to Churchill Downs where the Clark Handicap will be staged for the 138th time on Nov. 23.


“We might run him in the Clark,” Romans said. “We’ll see how he’s going into the race, but the plan right now is to go into (the Clark) or the Cigar Mile (at Aqueduct on Nov. 24). As long as he trains well, he’ll have one more race.”


If the 2011 Preakness champ goes in the $400,000 Clark, it will be his first race at more than a mile since he finished seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Donn at Gulfstream Park last February. In fact, his only victory at the distance was in an allowance contest 19 months ago at the South Florida track.


Likely combatants are Neck ’n Neck, coming off two stakes victories but winless at the distance in three tries, and Take Charge Indy, who last triumphed in Gulfstream’s Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles in March.


Other starters might include Pool Play, eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 after winning the Hawthorne Gold Cup, both at 1 ¼ miles. The 7-year-old son of Silver Deputy has scored once in three attempts at 1 1/8 miles, taking last year’s Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.


Trainer Mark Casse said Pool Play might not be the only Clark starter from his barn — Stealcase and Delegation are also under consideration.


“Pool Play loves Churchill Downs,” Casse said. “It’s coming back a little quick (from the Classic), but I think he just kind of went around the track in California. Also, this race is hard to pass up when we know he likes it here.”


Delegation could make his Churchill debut in the Clark after running third in the BC Dirt Mile. “With the exception of (BC  Sprint winner) Trinniberg, (Delegation) was one of the only 3-year-olds to get close (in the Breeders’ Cup),” Casse said. Delegation also is under consideration for the Cigar Mile.


Among the oldest races in the United States, the Clark was first run in 1875 when Churchill Downs opened for business. It is named for Col. M. Lewis Clark, founder of the Louisville Jockey Club that built the track.


If Shackleford runs in the 22nd Cigar Mile he might face Tapizar, who won the BC Dirt Mile while he ended up seventh after a bad break.


Others headed to Aqueduct are Jersey Town, fifth in the Dirt Mile, who captured the ’10 Cigar Mile, and Stay Thirsty, who is winless in four outings this year, with his last triumph 15 months ago in the Travers.


Defending champs might have met in the $350,000 Cigar Mile, but instead last year’s winner To Honor and Serve is headed for the green pastures of Kentucky after running 10th in the Classic. Rodolphe Brisset, assistant to trainer Bill Mott, said the 4-year-old son of Bernardini will begin his stud career at Gainesway.


The race is named for Hall of Fame member Cigar, who won it in ’94 when it was known as the NYRA Mile. It was renamed in ’97 following Cigar’s retirement.