The third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown serves as a reunion of sorts with eight three-year-olds who ran in this year’s Run for the Roses making up 75 percent of the field for the 143rd running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes (Grade I) going a mile-and-a-half over Belmont Park’s sandy main track.
Off his resounding win in the Kentucky Derby (Grade I) and near-miss second in the Preakness Stakes (Grade I) three weeks ago, Animal Kingdom was installed as the 2-to-1 morning line favorite and drew post No. 9 in his quest to become the 12th runner in history to complete the Derby/Belmont double.
After breaking slowly and getting pelted with dirt in the Preakness, the son of Leroidesanimaux trained by Graham Motion found himself 18 lengths behind pace-pressing Shackleford, who held off the hard-charging Derby winner by half a length to capture his first stakes victory in the run for the Black Eyed Susans.
“He’s going to naturally be closer. He’s not going to be as far out as the Preakness,” Motion told Andy Serling after the draw. “He’s never been a really quick horse away from the gate. The fact it was his second race on the dirt it caught him and (jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) by surprise.”
Looking to become the 18th horse in history to win the second two legs of the Triple Crown, the son of Forestry conditioned by Dale Romans drew post No. 12 and was made the 9-to-2 third choice.
“We’re going to have to send out of there drawing from the outside, so we expect to be on the lead,” said Romans. “The more you do with him the better he gets and he’s improving with every race.”
Will Animal Kingdom win the 2011 Belmont Stakes?
Nehro’s connections elected to skip the Preakness and bring their Derby runner-up to New York fresh and ready for the grueling marathon distance.
The son of Mineshaft trained by Steve Asmussen lands in post No. 6 and was made the 4-to-1 second choice to finally get over the hump after three straight second place efforts.
Of the five runners who have each run over the “Big Sandy” once in their career, Stay Thirsty’s runner-up effort in his debut is the best result.
After the disappointment of two-year-old champion Uncle Mo missing all three Triple Crown races, trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole, a native of New York, hope their $500,000 son of Bernardini can cross the wire first after breaking from post No. 2 as a 20-to-1 long shot.
Below is the complete field for Saturday's race, including post position, morning line and a brief comment.
PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment
1. Master of Hounds (10-1) Late Derby run will lure some sucker money.
2. Stay Thirsty (20-1) Consistency of race record indicates a notch below in homecoming
3. Ruler on Ice (20-1) Massive long shot after being less than 6/1 in six previous starts.
4. Santiva (15-1) Pedigree suggests he should stay the distance.
5. Brilliant Speed (15-1) Can come from clouds for underneath finish at nice price.
6. Nehro (4-1) Asmussen sitting on goose egg for Belmont meet.
7. Monzon (30-1) Up the track in all three graded stakes tries.
8. Prime Cut (15-1) Dramatic improvement needed despite race over track.
9. Animal Kingdom (2-1) Likely ends up half-length short of Triple Crown.
10. Mucho Macho Man (10-1) Another minor award the ceiling.
11. Isn’t He Perfect (30-1) Makes no impact for the fifth time in a graded stake.
12. Shackleford (9-2) On fumes through stretch and off the board.
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