SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Shackleford was trying to enter an elite group Sunday. Instead, he ran the worst race of his life in the Saratoga mud as the "Graveyard of Champions" claimed another victim.
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If last year's Preakness hero had won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, he would have joined Ruffian, Foolish Pleasure, Precisionist and Dancing Spree as the only horses since 1974 to win a Grade I at 6 furlongs and beyond 11/8 miles. He finished last of eight in his 6-furlong debut, nine lengths behind 36-1 shot Poseidon's Warrior, who will never be mentioned in the same sentence as three Hall of Famers and a Breeders' Cup Sprint champion.
Shackleford was antsy in the paddock and post parade, perhaps signaling it wouldn't be his day in his first race since a career best in the Met Mile. The 6-5 favorite didn't break well from the rail for John Velazquez, never looked comfortable and was hopelessly beaten entering the stretch.
"I didn't expect him to run like that, but he's 0-for-3 in the mud,'' trainer Dale Romans said. "That's the only excuse we can make for him.''
Emcee dueled with Rothko and led along the rail after a half-mile in 44.61 seconds. Poseidon's Warrior stalked three-wide in third for Irad Ortiz Jr. and passed Emcee three strides from the wire. Justin Phillip got up for second, a neck behind.
Poseidon's Warrior ($74.50) was 0-for-3 for trainer Robert Reid Jr. since winning a minor stakes last fall at Penn National. He was timed in 1:09.40 and earned $240,000 in his seventh win in 17 starts for Swilcan Stable.
"He was a notch below the top horses last year,'' said Reid, who won his first Grade I. "If we had known Shackleford was coming, we'd probably have made other plans.''
Steeplechase rider Darren Nagle was flagged for unusually bad behavior Thursday. The stewards suspended Nagle for three days and fined him $1,000 for "gross careless riding" after he elbowed Danielle Hodsdon while trying to force her off the course on the backstretch.
As Hodsdon, on Memorial Maniac, tried to rally inside of The Price of Love, Nagle got physical. Equibase's chart chronicled the unchivalrous deed: "Memorial Maniac's rider got elbowed shortly after fence seven by the rider of The Price of Love while jostling for position prior to fence eight when in tight and just able to squeeze within the jump parameters along the inside.'' There was no inquiry, and because Hodsdon finished third and Nagle fourth, she didn't claim foul.
The NBA suspended the Lakers' Metta World Peace (the former Ron Artest) for seven games last season for elbowing the Thunder's James Harden in the head. Coincidentally, a horse named Artest has run twice at the meeting. Nagle specializes in jump races, so he'll never ride Artest. That's too bad, because it seems like a natural pairing.
Owner Mike Repole, seeking his third consecutive meet title, leads with five wins . . . The two-night Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale begins Monday . . . There's a Pick 6 carry-over of $72,383.
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