Preakness winner Shackleford’s Centre College connection
Centre College lies not only in the center of the state (hence its name) but also in the center of horse country. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the Centre community is filled with many equestrians and horse-racing enthusiasts, and one of those is none other than Marty Takacs ’70, the Centre alumnus who bred and once trained Shackleford, the winner of this year’s Preakness Stakes.
Shackleford, who not only won the Preakness but also placed fourth in the 2011 Kentucky Derby and fifth in last week’s Belmont, was bred, born and raised at Belvedere Farm, which Takacs owns and runs. It was Takacs, in fact, who purchased the mare, Oatsee, for Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbage, Shackleford’s owners.
“It’s a funny story as to how this came about,” Takacs says. “Mike Lauffer is from my hometown of Paintsville, Ky., and is the brother-in-law of my oldest friend. My friend and I went to a U.K. basketball game in December, and while there, I told him about a racing partnership I was putting together. He told his brother-in-law about this, and five people from Paintsville bought a 10-percent share. In January, Mike decided he’d buy a broodmare at the Keeneland January mixed sale, so I bought Oatsee, and this wonderful trip was started.”
The “wonderful trip” saw Oatsee appreciate in value within four mere days, when her second foal won a graded stakes. The following year her third foal became a G1 winner. And then came Shackleford, foaled by Oatsee on Feb. 25, 2008.
At Belvedere, Takacs led the colt in his first lessons, instructing him in everything from wearing a halter to showing off his most athletic walk at the yearling sales.
And a little more than three years later, Takacs was one of thousands cheering on Shackleford as he took the crown in the Preakness Stakes, beating 13-1 odds.
“The Preakness was without doubt the most exciting day of my career in the horse industry,” Takacs says. “Shackleford did have a few of us concerned with his pre-race antics, but knowing the horse, we felt this was merely his desire to compete. He’s a very intelligent horse who will do whatever is asked of him, but he needs to understand the reason for what is asked.”
At the Belmont Stakes, held on June 11, crowds again rooted for Shackleford, who held the lead going into the final stretch before falling to fifth place.
“Now that the Belmont is history, Shackleford will get a well-deserved rest,” Takacs says. “He’s raced in four G1 races in the last 10 weeks, so his next race will probably be in late July or early August.”
And although he admits that a career in horse-racing takes a lot of luck, Takacs is grateful to Centre for the “part it played in this story.”
“My Centre education gave me the confidence to step into a new area and know that with hard work and dedication to understanding and learning I could be successful,” he says. “This knowledge has sustained me through a 30-plus year career.”
But, he adds, “raising a horse to win a classic race like the Preakness Stakes is like the saying goes, ‘I’d rather be lucky than smart any day.’”