Animal Kingom is the picture of health heading into the Saturday's Preakness Stakes, his next step on the quest for the Triple Crown.
Making the assumption that the world is not ending tomorrow, the 136th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. shapes up to be a continuation of the coming out party for Animal Kingdom that began two weeks ago with his dominant Kentucky Derby victory.
This may be a weak crop of three-year-olds as a whole, but the talent that this son of Leroidesanimaux has displayed in all five of his starts stamps him as a serious contender to win the Triple Crown.
Animal Kingdom’s two-and-three-quarter length splash into main stream prominence duplicated the winning margin from his final Derby prep, when he cruised home in the Spiral Stakes (Grade III) at Turfway Park over a synthetic surface that isn’t conducive to showcasing brilliance.
With a three-and-a-quarter length maiden victory also under his belt, only a pair of tough-luck second place finishes caused by rough trips stand in the way of a perfect 5-for-5 mark. In this day and age of horse shortage and small fields, Animal Kingdom has never faced less than nine rivals.
He’ll face another full field in the Preakness, with 13 lined up in an attempt to thwart a hype train to Belmont in three weeks that horse racing needs. This field is a less challenging bunch than he beat two weeks ago, as the only other horse coming in off a win is long shot Concealed Identity.
Mucho Macho Man returns off a third-place Derby finish, but he’s shown the penchant to settle for underneath finishes and nothing tells me he can make up the three lengths that Animal Kingdom put on him at Churchill Downs. The passing of wrestling super star Randy “Macho Man” Savage is also sure to attract unwarranted wagering dollars his way, killing any potential value on the son of Macho Uno.
The Derby favorite, who is also the Preakness favorite in early betting, is back with Dialed In chasing a $5.5 million bonus. The son of Mineshaft was a bet against for me in Kentucky, and although he made up some ground late in the Run for the Roses, that doesn’t sell me on the chances of what appears to be a tired horse.
Trainer Nick Zito’s bravado in proclaiming his colt the best three-year-old in the land only signals a lack of confidence in my eyes. If it weren’t for the lure of chasing the biggest pay day in North American horse racing history, it’s likely he would have been pointed elsewhere.
After leading for much of the Kentucky Derby through abnormally slow fractions, Shackleford held on to round out the superfecta and is back to likely face a much different pace scenario early. With other speed lined up both inside and outside the son of Forestry, his chances are compromised for trainer Dale Romans, who saddled the second (First Dude) and sixth (Paddy O’Prado) place finishers in last year’s Preakness.
My Derby pick Midnight Interlude was never in the race, fighting with jockey Victor Espinoza early while plodding around the track to a 16th place finish. The fact that Bob Baffert brings him back while trying the switch to his main man Martin Garcia again is encouraging, but after sinking with this ship two weeks ago, we find it difficult to envision an 18-length turn around.
The new shooters have nothing more than credentials that left them on the outside looking in for a spot in the Derby starting gate, with the exception of Astrology, who got off to a late start this year for Steve Asmussen after being regarded as one of the top two-year-olds in the country last year. The son of A.P. Indy could find his way into the underneath picture, but nothing since his decisive maiden score over a solid group indicates he can beat Animal Kingdom to the line.
Will Animal Kingdom win the 2011 Preakness Stakes?
While there’s been lots of focus on other intriguing human interest stories, trainer Graham Motion winning the run for the Woodlawn Vase in his adopted backyard of Maryland has been somewhat overlooked.
The native of England, who has been a main stay at the top of the trainer standings in Maryland for the past 15 years, has won with nearly 20 percent of his almost 8,000 career starts, and by all accounts he’s done things the right way in a time where many trainers have taken an “edge” on him.
The old saying goes why show up for the funeral when you missed the wedding, but although I missed out on 20-to-1 with Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby, we’ll be looking back at the 2-to-1 we get in the Preakness Stakes as a steal.
Let’s try a $.50 superfecta keying Animal Kingdom on top, using Astrology/Dance City/Mucho Macho Man in the second spot, those three along with Norman Asbjornson/Shackleford/Midnight Interlude/Dialed In for third and ALL to round it out for a total wager of $99. If that’s too rich for your blood you can play it for $.10 increments of $19.80 each.
Good luck and see you at Belmont Park in three weeks to witness history!
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