More than one headline
Updated: August 1, 2012, 4:05 PM ETBy Amanda Duckworth | Special to ESPN.com
Horsephotos.comWill Shackleford ever be known for more than his 2011 Preakness Stakes victory?Like many, my friends and I tuned in to the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. While the athletes were marching, we noted that we almost felt bad for some of them. Specifically the younger ones. Why? Well, if a 19-year-old wins a gold medal, even if they live to be 90, the first sentence of their obituary will be about that gold medal. That is a lot of pressure. And where do you go from there? Of course, that is the reality for any athlete that competes at the highest level. With few exceptions, moments like those are what you will be remembered for in the public eye. To the world at large, horses that win a leg of the Triple Crown have a better chance of making the news than other champions this sport produces. I had first hand experience with this fact during my time in the Hall of Champions at the Kentucky Horse Park. People would look at Cigar and ask me how he did in the Triple Crown. When I explained that he didn't compete in the series, most would ask why he was considered a champion. So with that said, I know that Shackleford, who won the 2011 Preakness Stakes, will first and foremost be remembered for that victory. However, if he can win on Sunday, he will have pulled off something even more challenging. The graded stakes system was introduced in 1973. In the 39 years since, only four horses are believed to have won Grade 1 races at six furlongs and also at distances longer than 1 1/8 miles. They are as follows: Ruffian, Foolish Pleasure, Precisionist and Dancing Spree. Shackleford is slated to go to post in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga this weekend. If the chestnut colt can win the six-furlong contest, he will be joining that very elite company. Of course, the ability to run short and long is not what any of those horses are remembered for. Their stories all contain highlights far less technical than that. But when you consider most runners (human and equine) specialize at certain distances, it is pretty impressive. Regardless of the Vanderbilt's outcome, I have to admit I have a very big soft spot for the handsome horse with the big white face. Shackleford does not always win, but he always tries. It is a quality I can't help but love in runners, and I know I am not alone. Beyond that, Shackleford finds himself in a unique spot when compared to the other Triple Crown race winners of the past three years. Eight different horses achieved glory in those nine races. Two of them never ran again (I'll Have Another and Union Rags) and two of them never won again (Super Saver and Ruler on Ice).
In short, not only is Shackleford still racing, he is still racing well and against top company.
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