136th Preakness: Shackleford Holds off Animal Kingdom

Joseph CiracoCorrespondent IMay 21, 2011

136th Preakness Stakes
136th Preakness Stakes

I'm still shaking my head that Shackleford just won the 136th Preakness by beating Animal Kingdom by less than one length.

As I looked at Shackleford's last two races, I saw a speed horse that backed up in the stretch on both occasions, and I firmly believe that if the Preakness was another 20 yards, Animal Kingdom would have won.

The race started exactly how most handicappers, including myself, expected—Flashpoint and Shackleford fighting for the lead from the first step.  The early fractions were blistering, as the first two furlongs were run in 22.4 and the first half mile in 46.4.

At this point in the race, I expected Flashpoint to have the lead and to continue to push the pace, but that's not what happened.  Flashpoint began to fade and Shackleford assumed full control of the race.

Midnight Interlude was close to the front and showed a lot more today than he did in the Kentucky Derby, and I thought he might make a serious run at the leaders but he also began to fade.

I was very disappointed in how far back Leparoux had Dialed In, despite the strong fractions.  I don't know if Julien Leparoux thinks Dialed In is the second coming of Zenyatta, but he, once again, had the horse at the back of the pack and I knew he wouldn't win as the race approached the mile distance.

This is when I really thought Shackleford would start to back up, but that wasn't the case today.  Despite tiring over the final three furlongs, Shackleford held on to win the second leg of the triple crown.

Astrology, with Mike Smith aboard, ran third and completed a very nice exacta and triple payout.

Dialed In was a frustrating fourth despite closing nicely late again. 

You can be sure that some "expert" will write an article about how John Velasquez might not have given Animal Kingdom the best ride and perhaps Robbie Albarado would have guided the horse to the winner's circle.

As I look forward to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks, I'm already going to assume that Shackleford will not be entered in that race.  The 12 furlong race doesn't seem to favor the Preakness winner, and any added distance will surely help a horse like Nehro.

If I'm Nick Zito, trainer of Dialed In, I have to be wondering would could have been if his colt didn't spot the field nearly 20 lengths in both the Derby and Preakness.