With a victory in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn, Malagacy (by Shackleford) remained unbeaten in three starts, put himself squarely in contention for the classics, and became the third Triple Crown candidate this year by a sire standing at Darby Dan Farm.

Darby Dan owner John Phillips has been in the horse business long enough to realize the good fortune he is reaping, but the historic farm is having as a strong a year in 2017 as it experienced with Phillips’s grandfather John Galbreath, who stood such icons as Ribot, Sea-Bird, and Swaps and who bred classic winners Proud Clarion and Roberto.

Proud-Clarion

Proud Clarion, winner of the 1967 Kentucky Derby, was one of two classic winners bred by Darby Dan from Hail to Reason; the other was English Derby winner and leading sire Roberto.

Both the latter were sons of champion juvenile Hail to Reason (Turn-to), and Roberto became a sire of great international significance. Winner of the 1972 English Derby and the only horse to defeat the great Brigadier Gerard (in the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup), Roberto figures in the pedigree of Malagacy, and the Rebel Stakes winner is inbred to Pleasant Colony, the classic-winning son of leading sire His Majesty, one of the stars of the Darby Dan breeding program during the 1980s and ’90s.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony appears 4×3 in Malagacy’s pedigree, and the classic winner was the best son of his famous sire both on the racetrack and at stud. Although a confirmed two-turn performer, Pleasant Colony sired some stock that were notably quicker and more precocious than himself.

Shackleford, in possessing pace and stamina, inherited the best elements of his classic forebears Pleasant Colony, plus classic winner and champion Unbridled, who is Shackleford’s broodmare sire and whom Shackleford resembles in many respects, though not in color.

In the 2011 Preakness, Shackleford showed his pace, stamina, and courage to best effect as he held off Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Because Shackleford is a blend of elements, many breeders didn’t know what to make of the tall, handsome chestnut. When his stock came to the in-training sales a year ago, some made a dramatic impression with their stride length and speed.

As time has proven, however, they are not really sprinters. The nicer ones so far have fallen into the Unbridled pattern of possessing good speed but requiring patience. They also seem to be following this profile and maturing nicely in their 3-year-old season, and the Rebel victory moved Malagacy to the head of the class.

Bred in Kentucky by John Trumbulovic, Malagacy is out of the Dehere mare Classiest Gem. Trumbulovic purchased the mare in foal to Whywhywhy (Mr. Greeley) for $20,000 out of the Gainesway consignment at the 2006 Keeneland November sale, and then Trumbulovic sold the mare, carrying a full sibling to Malagacy, at the 2014 Keeneland November sale for $17,000 to Twilight Stables.

For her new owner, Classiest Gem foaled a full sister to the Rebel Stakes winner, and that filly has since been named Classy Shackles. The filly was a $27,000 RNA at the 2015 Keeneland November sale as a weanling and then resold as a yearling for $26,500 at the 2016 Minnesota Thoroughbred Association auction.

In contrast to his sister, Malagacy has been in sales prep most of his life and has made money every time he changed hands. He went through the 2014 Keeneland November sale for $45,000, sold to Stoney Lane Farm. Then, consigned to the 2015 Ocala Breeders Sales auction of yearlings in August, the good-looking chestnut sold to De Meric Stables, agent, for $130,000 out of the Stuart Morris consignment.

Then De Meric Sales brought the colt to the Fasig Midlantic sale, and agent Steve Young bought Malagacy out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic auction of 2-year-olds in training at Timonium last year for $190,000. Malagacy races for Sumaya US Stable.

Young said, “I thought this colt was a strong and well-balanced horse who worked really well. I think he’s changed as much as a horse can change in the past few months, all in the right direction. He’s gotten better with each race, has improved mentally and physically. Took a little while to come to hand, but his last 60 days have been phenomenal. He’s going in the right direction.”

At the 2-year-old sale last year, the powerful chestnut worked a furlong in :10 2/5, which earned him a BreezeFig of 63, and he showed a stride length of 24.7 feet coming down the stretch at Timonium. The colt’s internal scoring and performance numbers indicated the potential to be a stakes horse, and he has come on in the manner his connections have hoped for.

The colt’s performance in the Rebel was the best stallion advertisement that money cannot buy, and Shackleford, who has had books of more than 100 mares each season, according to Darby Dan’s Ryan Norton, “is booked to more than a hundred mares, although we still have room for a few good mares.”

The winner of $3 million during his racing career, Shackleford is at Darby Dan for $15,000 live foal on a stands and nurses basis.

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