Scratched by trainer Dale Romans from the Forego Stakes Sept. 1 because of a persistent cough, Shackleford now will be pointed toward the $400,000 Kelso Handicap, a one-mile race Sept. 29 at Belmont Park.
Romans sent his barn star out to the Saratoga Race Course main track Sept. 2 for an easy jog. The cough bothering Shackleford wasn't enough to keep him stall-bound, but Romans wasn't about to throw his two-time Grade 1 winner into a top sprint at less than 100%.
"You just don't run a coughing horse," Romans said. "There's something going on, but we took him out for a light jog."
The 4-year-old son of Forestry captured the 2011 Preakness Stakes and this year's Metropolitan Handicap on May 28 at Belmont.
He arrived at Saratoga this summer as one of the top-ranked horses in the country. But in his first outing at the Spa he finished last in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap over a muddy track. Romans said the inside post and course conditions bothered Shackleford that day and called the race a toss.
The cough cost him his opportunity at redemption. Still, the trainer said he wasn't all that disappointed.
"No, not really," Romans said. "We've had him now since he was a young 2-year-old and he's missed one race. He never missed a day of training I was pointing for; he'd never missed a race. Nothing. He shows up every time."
Shackleford now will return to his base at Churchill Downs and prepare for the Kelso and then a run in the Breeders' Cup, likely the final races of his career.
"What we want to do is win the Breeders' Cup," Romans said.
Asked if the Kelso would lead to a run in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, Romans preferred to keep his options open.
"Still not sure, but that's the most obvious spot," he said. "Not that we won't do something that's not obvious. We'll figure it out."
Shackleford, owned by his breeders, Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge, along with Phillips Racing Partnership, has earnings of $2,744,047 in 17 starts with a 5-4-1 record.