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Titans Of The Turf: Shakespeare

September 15, 2017

By Teresa Genaro for​

TORONTO, September 15 – I remember the first time I saw Shakespeare. It was the day of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2005, and I’d headed out to Belmont with a couple of fellow English teacher friends, and he, along with English Channel, was running in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. We bet to win, we bet the exacta, we hit both. Easy game.
The win was Shakespeare’s fifth in a row; owned by his breeder Dell Ridge Farm in partnership with William Schettine, in whose silks he ran, the bay horse was undefeated, and en route to that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf, also held at Belmont, he’d earned his first Grade 1 win in the Hirsch Classic.
A son of 1997 Eclipse Turf champion Theatrical (IRE), Shakespeare is out of the Grade 1 winner Lady Shirl. Offered at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale, he failed to meet his reserve, bringing a final bid of $140,000. Later that year, Schettine purchased a half-interest in him.
Like the course of true love, the course to the racetrack seldom runs smoothly, and Shakespeare didn’t debut until the winter of 2004, when he was three. Two wins, both at Gulfstream Park, both by impressive margins, and Shakespeare was back on the shelf, away from the track for 16 months.
He returned at Saratoga in July of 2005, picking up right where he left off, dispatching his rivals easily until that Hirsch Classic, when he eked out a head win, the closest margin in his short career. He finished 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf as the narrow second choice, and for two years, that, it seemed, would be his swan song, Shakespeare exiting the stage with a tendon injury.
But as track announcer Tom Durkin so aptly put it, Shakespeare had a second act.
He returned in July 2007 to Saratoga, transferred from trainer Bill Mott to Kiaran McLaughlin. He had a new trainer and a new jockey, Garrett Gomez in the saddle replacing Jerry Bailey, but the result was the same: a trip to the winner’s circle, this one after a two-year layoff.
And then, McLaughlin decided, it was time to head north.
“The Woodbine Mile was a $1 million race,” said McLaughlin this summer at Saratoga. “It was good timing—six weeks after the allowance race here—and it was a prestigious race. We were happy to go.”
“We had a lot of offers from people wanting to run the horse at their tracks,” recalled Des Ryan, manager at Dell Ridge. “We like Canada, we like Toronto, and we knew we’d be well taken care of.”​

The date of the race, September 16, and its conflict with the Keeneland yearling sale made it impossible for Ryan to make the trip, but Frank and Mattie Justice, owners of Dell Ridge, were there to see their homebred earn his second Grade 1 race, this one perhaps even more impressive than his first one, given what Shakespeare had overcome.
“Mr. and Mrs. Justice were still talking about it six months later,” said Ryan. “Mrs. Justice still talks about what a great day they had there, how well they were treated, and how beautiful it was.”
But with that year’s Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth in their sights, the Justices, Schettine, and McLaughlin had to admit, reluctantly, the inevitable: Shakespeare’s tendon injury flared up, and this time, when the horse was six years old, a comeback was not in the script.
“Tendons are either OK or you’re in trouble,” said McLaughlin. “We were OK, and then we were in trouble.”
After an eight-race career in which he lost just once, Shakespeare began life as a stallion at Hill ‘n’ Dale near Lexington, then moved to Schettine’s Signature Stallions in Florida. He relocated in 2012 to Lane’s End, but unfortunately, his performance as a sire fell well short of his performance as a racehorse.
“It’s hard to get mares in America for turf stallions,” observed Ryan. “He just didn’t get the numbers he deserved to get. He had some nice runners in his first couple of crops, but he wasn’t getting enough interest.”
His most accomplished runner by earnings was Best Bard (2012) out of the Mutakddim mare Chamul, a stakes-placed gelding that earned $408,000. Shkspeare Shaliyah (2009, out of Tricky Mistress (Clever Trick)), won the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont Park as a two-year-old.

Shakespeare enjoying a pick of grass…. (Dell Ridge Farm Photo)
Now gelded, Shakespeare lives back at Dell Ridge Farm​​, sharing a paddock with 26-year-old Desert Stormer, who won the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and other retirees.
“We’ve got seven or eight of them in the retirement section of the farm,” said Ryan.
“He was an absolutely beautiful horse,” said McLaughlin. “One of the best-looking horses I’ve ever been around. I liked him so much that I even talked to John Ferguson about Sheik Mohammed’s group maybe standing him in Japan, but he didn’t make a great stallion.”
Although Shakespeare’s dénouement may not have been the finish that his owners would have written, they could ask for no greater climax than a Grade 1 win in a historical, significant race. And while Shakespeare himself won’t make a curtain call at Woodbine, Dell Ridge doesn’t rule out a revival.
“If we ever get a chance,” he said, “we’d be thrilled to go back.”
Steeped in tradition, Woodbine’s world-famous turf races have been captured by some of the greats of the sport including recent Woodbine Mile champs Tepin and Wise Dan; the Hall of Fame mare All Along who captured the International in a standout campaign; and the incomparable Secretariat, who concluded his historic career with a runaway score in the 1973 edition of the International. Join us as we profile Titans of the Turf, highlighting those who have triumphed on the Woodbine green.
August 29, 2017. Titans Of The Turf: Dreaming Of Anna
September 4th, 2017. Titans Of The Turf: Tepin
September 11, 2017 – Titans Of The Turf: Wise Dan
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