Shaman Ghost winning the 2016 Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II) at Belmont Park – Coglianese Photos/Nikki Sherman
Quick quiz–how many horses in racing history have won the Queen’s Plate Stakes, Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II), Woodward Stakes (gr. I), Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), and Pimlico Special (gr. III)?
Truth be told, I don’t know the answer, but if I were to guess I would say that Shaman Ghost is likely the first horse to complete this impressive sweep of historic stakes races. And he’s certainly earned those victories, battling hard to win three of them by less than a length.
Shaman Ghost’s career highlight reel is eye-catching, with the latest memorable moment coming in the May 19th Pimlico Special. The son of Ghostzapper really had no business reeling in the front-running Dolphus after that runner carved out modest fractions of :47.92 and 1:12.41. Shaman Ghost, trailing by 3 1/2 lengths at that point, was trying to rally wide while spotting the leader six pounds, and when Dolphus threw down a fourth quarter-mile in :24.09, that should have eliminated any chance of Shaman Ghost pulling off the victory.
Instead, Shaman Ghost closed ground relentlessly, caught Dolphus at the sixteenth pole, and fought on to win by a neck in the sharp time of 1:54.55 seconds for 9.5 furlongs. Even more impressive, Shaman Ghost ran the final three-sixteenths of a mile in less than :18 seconds, a stellar time for a two-turn dirt race.
To put it simply, Shaman Ghost doesn’t get tired. The majority of his stakes wins have come at distances of 9.5 furlongs or longer; in fact, he won the 12-furlong Brooklyn Handicap last year by 4 1/4 lengths, by far the most dominant performance of his career. But he’s also got enough speed to be competitive going much shorter; he won the Woodward at nine furlongs and was second to Arrogate in the nine-furlong Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) earlier this year.
As a son of Ghostzapper, it’s not surprising that Shaman Ghost is improving with age, and the Pimlico Special suggests that Shaman Ghost is in career-best form. While Arrogate is considered a standout in the older male division this year, Shaman Ghost has staked his claim as a clear runner-up, and I have the feeling Shaman Ghost’s record will only become more decorated as the year progresses. With Arrogate expected to remain in California for the summer, the East Coast’s major two-turn graded stakes races appear ripe for conquest by Shaman Ghost, who will surely be tough to beat in races like the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at his preferred distance of ten furlongs.
To put it another way, Shaman Ghost’s highlight reel should only get longer as the year goes on.
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