Front-running Shakhimat checkmates foes in Transylvania

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April 8th, 2016

Queen’s Plate winter book favorite Shakhimat got his classic campaign off to a rip-roaring start in the $100,000 Transylvania (G3) on a cold, damp opening Friday at Keeneland.

Also a finalist for Canadian champion 2-year-old male in the Sovereign Awards gala later Friday night, the Roger Attfield pupil was dispatched at a generous 6-1 here. Shakhimat broke on top for regular rider Emma-Jayne Wilson, comfortably secured the early lead, and that was that.

Other than a brief attempt by 55-1 longshot One Mean Man to prompt along the backstretch, Shakhimat never saw a proper challenge. The Ontario-bred son of Austalian superstar Lonhro traveled well within himself and appeared to have his rivals’ measure at every stage. After clicking off splits of :23.54, :47.84, 1:12.61, he began to open up by daylight on the far turn. Shakhimat widened his advantage to 3 1/4 lengths while completing 1 1/16 miles on the good turf in 1:42.65.

J R ’s Holiday (yellow bridle) ran another fine race to rally for second, continuing his string of solid efforts on turf. Inspector Lynley parlayed his ground-saving stalking trip into third, but he barely edged the tough-trip Converge.

Wrangled back after an awkward start, Converge was last through the opening half-mile, improved on the inside to upper stretch, only to find no room between Inspector Lynley and the rail. Converge had to tap on the brakes before coming again, and he didn’t regain much momentum in fourth. Aside from his difficult passage through the race, Converge (like J R ’s Holiday) was spotting Shakhimat five pounds as the 123-pound co-highweight. The task would have been hard enough at levels.

Converge’s stablemate from the Chad Brown barn, 9-5 favorite Catapult, had not been seen since his debut victory at Belmont Park last October. Catapult’s inexperience showed in this second lifetime start. Lunging a little at the break, he was apparently bumped by the wayward Converge and held up near the rear. Catapult tried to advance five wide into the stretch, lugged in, changed leads a couple of times, and wound up fifth. The son of Kitten’s Joy figures to improve with more seasoning.

Owned by Richard Hogan and Dan Gale, Shakhimat has now earned $222,494 from his 4-3-0-1 line. The dark bay’s only loss came in the Cup & Saucer, but he rebounded with a 9 3/4-length drubbing in the November 8 Coronation Futurity in his 2015 finale. Shakhimat had been under consideration for last Saturday’s Spiral (G3) before connections opted for Keeneland. Attfield has been training him in company with such accomplished 4-year-olds as Danish Dynaformer (also a Sovereign Award finalist) and Billy’s Star, suggesting his regard for him.

Shakhimat was bred by Adena Springs, and after RNA’ing for $80,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, sold for $60,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-old. His dam, the Touch Gold mare Reggae Rose, is a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Celtic New Year. This is the family of champion turf mare Perfect Sting, the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) heroine.

Quotes from Keeneland

Winning rider Emma-Jayne Wilson:

“I don’t know if I thought the win was going to be that easy, but I thought getting the lead was definitely going to be in our wheelhouse. Looking through the Form, we were the only legitimate pace. The last time he ran, he put up a quick opening quarter and was on the lead. But he settled back and was in my hands. I knew if I had the same kind of trip today, it would be a similar kind of effort.

“I had quite a bit of horse turning for home and I thought unless somebody comes with a rapid swoop where he wasn’t able to see them, they wouldn’t be able to creep their way by him.”

Assistant trainer Patrick Dixon:

“He’d been breezing really good at Payson Park. He matured really well. He was doing everything right, training well. He shipped well here and he’d been training really well. The only thing we were concerned about was the rain.”


Photo courtesy Keeneland/Coady Photography.