In the Preakness Stakes, a fast pace by the leaders combined with a slow start by Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom meant that there will be no Triple Crown winner this year.
Shackleford, a Kentucky-bred chestnut who had won just one race in six previous outings, engaged in an early duel with Flashpoint and then held off a late charge by star closer Animal Kingdom by a half-length to win the 136th Preakness Stakes in 1:56:47 at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, paying $27.20 to win.
Astrology finished third. The announced crowd for the 13-race card headlined by the $1 million Preakness was 107,398, the sixth largest in Preakness history with a handle of $76,326,689.
The victorious colt's brisk Preakness pace—the first quarter-mile was covered in a speedy 22.69 seconds—was in contrast to the colt's Derby performance, where Shackleford held the lead in a slower-tempo trip until being overtaken by Animal Kingdom and finishing fourth.
This time, Shackleford, with Jesus Castanon in the irons, burst out of the starting gate trailing another speed horse, Flashpoint, and the two sprinted through the backstretch while Animal Kingdom fell back to 13th place in the 14-horse field.
Animal Kingdom's jockey, John Velazquez, said his horse ran into trouble at the start when he was so far behind the field that he was getting dirt kicked in his face.
"He reacted to the dirt and he backed up a little bit," Velazquez said of the pre-race favorite.
In the Derby, Animal Kingdom was close enough to the pack that the dirt was hitting his chest, the jockey noted. As is his custom, Animal Kingdom did go into comeback mode as Velazquez bided his time, waited for an opening, and took the Derby winner wide out of the far turn to challenge Shackleford in the stretch.
Animal Kingdom chewed up the dirt, flying past most of the field and closed on Shackleford. But the finish line just came up too fast.
"By the quarter-pole, I thought he had a chance," Velazquez said of Animal Kingdom. "But it was too much to make up."
Shackleford's win in the Preakness ended hopes for a Triple Crown winner.
The last horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, which is in three weeks, was Affirmed in 1978.
Castanon said he sensed a rival closing in the last sixteenth-of-a-mile and simply assumed it was Animal Kingdom.
"I knew Animal Kingdom was the only horse who was able to come get me," said the jockey, who comes from a racing family. Castanon's father, a trainer also named Jesus, died in November.
Despite the challenge from Animal Kingdom, Castanon said he was "very confident all the way around."
"I knew I had some horse left," Castanon said of coming off the far turn, "and when I asked him to pick it up, he did his business."
Shackleford's owners, including trainer Dale Romans, did not commit to the Belmont Stakes, but said that if the colt came out of the Preakness as well as he did the Kentucky Derby, there was a good chance he would likely be in New York. He noted that the Belmont, despite the longer 1 1/2-mile distance, was a speed horse's race because sometimes a front-runner can stay on top to the end.
Romans said one key to the race was his horse keeping up with early leader Flashpoint.
"Our horse likes to look a horse in the eye," Romans said.
And when Flashpoint couldn't shake Shackleford, Romans said, the leader simply fell back, eventually finishing last.
"I was more concerned if [Shackleford] was going to hang on," Romans said. "It was fast, but he kind of pulled everyone else out of the race. He has a high cruising speed."
Animal Kingdom's trainer Graham Motion, who is English-born but trains in Maryland, said he wasn't disappointed with his horse.
"He did nothing wrong," Motion said. "I think the horse ran huge. If it wasn't for the fact that it was the Triple Crown, you'd be thrilled that he ran so well."