The 136th Preakness Stakes is in the books, as Shackleford held on against a fast-closing Animal Kingdom to win. He stamped himself as a tough horse, showing yet again that it is almost impossible to get by him.
But now it is time to look forward.
There won't be a Triple Crown winner this year, a pill that is hard to swallow after how much I believed Animal Kingdom could be the one. It's a tough task to ask any horse to win three consecutive races, much less a three-year-old to beat the best horses three consecutive times.
Anyway, here are my five bold predictions for the Belmont and beyond.
Only five Derby horses came back in the Preakness, so this isn't that bold of a prediction.
Midnight Interlude yet again showed himself not to be good enough, and it is hard to image Bob Baffert sending him back yet again to get thoroughly outclassed.
Mucho Macho Man yet again caught trouble, but I think his Triple Crown journey is over.
Dialed In could win the Belmont, and it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see him in three weeks, but I think the goal was the Preakness. There was a $6.1 million payday if he found the wire first. He didn't. Now it is time for a break before his summer campaign.
Shackleford? Mike Lauffer all but said he's not heading to Belmont. Sure, he put the decision on Dale Romans' plate, and Romans knows better than to try Shackleford at a distance where he may run last.
That leaves only Animal Kingdom.
And with his value as a Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up, I don't see Team Valor racing him again until July at the earliest. They want to get him as long of a break as possible.
Santiva and Brilliant Speed, who ran sixth and seventh, were my two Derby long shots, and Santiva won't win the Belmont.
That means Brilliant Speed, who I picked before the Derby to win the Belmont, will win the Belmont.
Lock it in now. I called it and I'm sticking with it.
Animal Kingdom showed himself to be the best three-year-old distance horse in the country, while Shackleford stamped himself as one of the toughest horses to get by that I've ever seen.
Assuming Graham Motion and Team Valor take the path I expect them to take, Animal Kingdom is only getting started.
He should be the best in the Travers Stakes, even if he faces Dialed In and Shackleford again. Like the Kentucky Derby, it is 1-1/4 miles.
The Haskell, run three weeks before the Travers, shapes up well for Shackleford if he runs. Monmouth is generally nice to speed horses, and the 1-1/8 mile distance is Shackleford's best. That's the race I expect to see Lauffer point his Preakness winner towards.
Flashpoint dueled with Shackleford through the first quarter-mile in 22 3/5 seconds, a grueling pace for a race of this distance. In fact, even some of the sprint races this weekend at Pimlico didn't even come close to that fast.
Although he ran last in the Preakness, that was to be expected. This race was a good quarter-mile more than he should ever be asked to run.
I expect him to come back strongly this summer going shorter distances and we'll see him at Churchill Downs in the Breeders' Cup in either the dirt mile or the sprint.
And hopefully when we do see him, whoever makes the saddle clothes gets it right that there's no space between "Flash" and "point" like they put in the Preakness.
He made excuses after the Kentucky Derby and I'm sure over the next few weeks he'll make excuses for the Preakness.
Let's be honest Bob: Midnight Interlude just isn't that good of a horse.
The Santa Anita Derby was historically woeful this year. Midnight Interlude barely got by Comma to the Top, who had nothing for the final furlong of that race. Nothing. And still, Midnight Interlude was the only horse that could get to him.
Midnight Interlude was one of the weakest horses in this field and that he ran 13th, beating only the speedster Flashpoint, was an accurate indictment of his abilities.