Shackleford a go for Belmont Stakes

The rubber match is on: Preakness winner Shackleford is ready to take on Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the Belmont Stakes next Saturday.

Shackleford passed his final test Saturday morning with a sharp five-furlong workout at Belmont Park.

”As long as he comes out of the work good he will run,” trainer Dale Romans said after talking it over with the colt’s owner, Michael Lauffer. ”I am excited he’s doing so well and coming into the race the right way. I think he’s going to be very competitive.”

It’ll be the first time the Derby and Preakness winners hook up in the Belmont since 2005, when Preakness winner Afleet Alex beat Derby winner Giacomo, and the 22nd time in the history of the Triple Crown races.

Shackleford, with exercise rider Tammy Fox aboard, covered five furlongs in 1:00.30 on a warm, overcast day.

”I wanted to see him work his normal work, and he did,” said Romans. ”I thought he went around there really well and it looked like he did everything the way he was supposed to.”

Shackleford had the lead in the stretch at the Derby before finishing fourth; Animal Kingdom came close in the Preakness, finishing a half-length behind in second place.

Entries and post positions for the Belmont will be drawn Wednesday. At 1-1/2 miles, it is the longest Triple Crown race.

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