Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shackleford's Preakness is First Triple Crown Win for Synthetic Horseshoes; Dewey-Walters Shoeing Team Claims Two-Thirds of Crown, Going for Triple

Jockey Jesus Lopez Castanon had so many reasons to smile as Shackleford lunged across the finish line of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Were you watching? Were you one of the millions of people who didn't notice anything unusual about this horse? UPI/Kevin Dietsch/Fotoglif image

"Oh well, another year without a Triple Crown winner," everyone said, as they turned off their televisions after Saturday's Preakness Stakes. Early speedster Shackleford had surprised everyone and held on as the late-charging Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom came from way behind and reached the chestnut's flank at the wire. But that's as close as he would come; the wire was over their heads too soon for Animal Kingdom to save his Triple Crown bid. It came just in time for Shackleford.

Click. So, what's for dinner? Do you want to go out or stay home?

But wait just a minute. Turn the television back on. Back up the DVR. Play it again, Sam.

There's another story left to tell here, and maybe this little story will help make the Belmont Stakes more interesting.

We saw Shackleford in the Fountain of Youth, the Florida Derby, the Kentucky Derby. It's hard to miss him because he has a wide white blaze with an arrow's point at the top, like a wide white racing stripe on a Cobra. You could definitely find this horse in a field in the dark.

Maybe his big white face is so distracting that no one ever looks at his feet. And maybe they should. If they did, they'd do a double-take.

Exercise rider Faustino Ramos and Shackleford cast a long shadow during a workout just before the Kentucky Derby. Shades of things to come? Shackeford finished fourth in the Derby after leading most of the race. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/Fotoglif
What no one picked up on Saturday is that Shackleford was wearing clear polyurethane "Polyflex" glue-on shoes, and he has been wearing them for the past three months. They were attached without nails, so his hoof walls were smooth as glass, without any telltale nail clinches.

Shackleford's victory in the Preakness marks the first Triple Crown race won by a horse in synthetic shoes.

Of course, Big Brown won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in glue-on shoes, and they are pretty standard equipment these days, but no one we know of has done it since, and no one has done it in synthetic shoes. Ever.

Click on this link to go to the licensing survey for racetrack horseshoers.

Racetrack horseshoers have several glue-specialty manufacturers' shoeing products to choose from, or they can glue normal race plates on with what is called the "direct glue" method. Using adhesive-impregnated tape, they can also put a virtual cast on the foot and nail or glue a shoe onto that, as well.

But the material that usually hits the dirt or turf or synthetic track surface in those cases is aluminum.

Shackleford wasn't the only one in the Preakness with high-tech synthetic sport shoes: third-place finisher Astrology wore them as well. And in the Derby, Nehro wore them. Perhaps others in both races did, too.

Shackleford wore clear nailless polyurethane Polyflex shoes like this one on his front feet
Shackleford's Shoer on Synthetic Shoes

"It's about time someone noticed!" laughed horseshoer Brad Dewey on the  phone today. "I could see them, even on television, in the post parade." The horse has been wearing the special glue-on shoes since before the Fountain of Youth Stakes this spring. That was three months ago." No one has brought it up.

Dewey said that he originally put a pair of the Polyflex shoes on the colt's front feet because he had an abscess that was going to blow out. "These shoes allow movement," he said, "it's sort of hard to explain but thanks to the shoes, the horse never had to take a day off. One day we noticed that the abscess had blown out, and he moved on but he was going well so we kept the shoes on."

Dewey mentioned that Shackleford's hind feet are shod with "regular" hind Thoro'Bred plates, nailed on.

I asked trainer Dale Romans today if the Polyflex shoes were a regular alternative for him to try on his horses. He sounded surprised, "No, no, this is a first," he said quickly, "and we're really thrilled."

Shackleford trained for the Kentucky Derby on a wet Churchill Downs surface in his glue-on shoes. In this photo you can clearly see the PMMA adhesive on the heels of his front hooves. Apparently no one noticed. Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Fotoglif photo.

Triple Crown of Horseshoes?

Last year, we noted Winstar Farm's Double Stetson; they won two of three Triple Crown races by book-ending Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby and Drosselmeyer in the Belmont. Bill Casner's Stetson in the winner's circle was a crown itself, Texas style.

But this year we might have a Triple Crown of a different sort. The New York and Florida-based horseshoeing partnership of Mark Dewey and Bernie Walter has scored a Derby win with Animal Kingdom, shod by Bernie. Now Mark's son, who works with the team, has shod Shackleford to win the Preakness.

Mark Dewey shoes Mucho Macho Man, so you have to like his chances in the Belmont. Mucho Macho Man also has glue-on front shoes, but they are applied by the "direct glue" method and, according to Brad Dewey, are No Vibe plates.

If they could pull off shoeing the winners of all three races within their own team, it would be a clever accomplishment.

About the shoe

The Burns Polyflex shoe (left) was developed by a horseshoer named Curtis Burns who, like so many others, lives and works in Florida and New York, according to the season. He and his wife Diane manufacture the shoes in a molding process that encases a metal wire that holds some shaping capability.

The shoe is typically applied by a horseshoer who has been trained to both use the shoe and to mix and apply the polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) adhesive. The company has an instructional video on their web site, www.noanvil.com.

The Polyflex got its big break when it was adopted as the shoe of choice for all-time top money earner Curlin in his four-year-old campaign; in fact, a separate square-toe design of the shoe was developed just for Curlin. Since then the shoe has been worn by numerous stakes winners, record setters, a Breeders Cup winner, and show horses. It's also used in podiatry applications for yearlings and adults horses with special shoeing needs.

To learn more:

Heel Bulb Injuries 101: Big Brown's Latest Hoof Malady

Greetings from the Gluegrass: Will Big Brown and Pyro Choices of Designer Footwear Turn It Into the Ken-STUCK-y Derby?

"Glue-y Ville" Hosts Breeders Cup: Shoes Stay On

Curlin Goes for Glue: Breeders Cup Favorite Sports High-Tech Urethane Glue Shoe

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