Animal Kingdom upset the field in the Kentucky Derby by three lengths and finds himself in what could be a historic role. Can the 3 year-old colt take the black-eyed susans today in the Preakness and go on to contend for the Belmont, thereby creating the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978? Or will he be knocked off the top of the mountain by Dialed In or Mucho Macho Man, thus ending the hype and anticipation for another year? The field of 14, populated by numerous Derby contenders and a few new-comers, will take the Post at 6:14pm EDT on NBC in an effort to capture the sporting world’s most valuable trophy, the Woodlawn Vase (pre-Preakness festivities broadcast on Versus).
Here are my thoughts on today’s race (please see my Kentucky Derby post for background information on some of today’s horses):
- #11 Animal Kingdom:As I mentioned above, the three length victory in the Derby is being billed as one of the “cleanest” Runs for the Roses, since it was relatively conflict-free (despite a very slow running time). He posted a Beyer speed rating of 103 in the Derby, and despite the fact he’s only run five races in his short career, he’s been on the board in all five. John Velazquez saddles up again aboard this colt trained by Graham Motion. Animal Kingdom seems to get better each run and was 2-1 on the morning line odds.
- #9 Mucho Macho Man: This 3 year-old colt, trained by Kathy Ritvo, finished third in the Kentucky Derby, and has been on the board for his last three races (the Kentucky Derby G1, finished third in the Louisiana Derby G2, and won the Risen Star G2). In his last workout April 30th at Churchill Downs, he ran fourth of the thirty-six horses that morning on a fast surface. He’s a late foal (all horses celebrate their birthdays on January 1st of each year, regardless of when they are actually born, as a way of ensuring all horses are of the same age when they run the various races that require age limits/minimums), so he might typically be a little smaller than the older contenders (as even a few weeks can make a difference); but this colt is a bit larger than most. He might run off as a sentimental favorite by more than just the Village People, since Randy “Macho Man” Savage lost his life last night in a car accident after suffering an apparent heart attack. Morning line odds had him at 6-1, and he posted his best Beyer speed rating of 99 on Derby day.
- #10 Dialed In: Nick Zito, who is no stranger to the big stakes races, has trained this colt. If Dialed In pulls off the victory today, he will not only be taking home the $600,000 purse, he will also take home a $5.5million bonus as the winner of the Holy Bull, Florida Derby, and the Preakness. Julien Leparoux will be aboard this favorite. Expect him to run as a near-peer favorite to Animal Kingdom from the ten-hole out of the starting gate.
While those top-three contenders might be intuitively obvious to those making their prognostications for today’s race, here are a couple of potential long shot bets:
- #3 King Congie: Robby Albarado will be aboard this Preakness contender. This colt with lineage back to Silver Deputy placed third in the Blue Grass Stakes G1 with a Beyer rating of 93, and had won his previous three races on dirt and turf. Some say he might be a little faster on turf or Polytrack than dirt. However, with a morning line of 20-1, he could be an outside bid coming out of the gate in the three-hole.
- #12 Isn’t He Perfect: While this colt’s current record isn’t exactly perfect, the distance of the Preakness might suit the him. Isn’t He Perfect was near the front of the pack through the initial portion of the Wood Memorial, but finished 5th with a Beyer rating of 84. Today however, with jockey Edgar Prado aboard, Isn’t He Perfect just might be the perfect spoiler at a morning line odds of 30-1.
For those not in the loop over the last few years, Prado rode 2006 Derby winner Barbaro in the Preakness that year, when Barbaro injured his leg going down the front stretch at the start of the race, and eventually endured a near year-long rehabilitation before finally succumbing to laminitis. I was there at Pimlico that year for the Preakness and experienced the gasps and “Oh no’s” that were uttered by so many in the stands and the infield. It was a day where everyone, no matter whether or not you had bet on him, was pulling for Barbaro’s health and safety as the ambulance was whisked away under police escort. That was one race I’ll never forget.
So while I’d love to see Animal Kingdom cross the wire first and hopefully continue on his trek towards immortality, the odds are that with so many good horses in the field Animal Kingdom will be overtaken at or near the wire. However, if the horse posts an even more impressive finish than the Derby, we might just have a legitimate contender for the Triple Crown this year.
So sit back, get yourself some Maryland crab cakes and a Black-Eyed Susan (the drink, not the flower), and be ready to join the Naval Academy glee club sing “Maryland, My Maryland” just before the starting gates open. This could be one for the books, even if you’re not in the Infield with Kegasus (do a search…it’s Pimlico’s efforts this year to increase attendance in the infield; more like a Minotaur, he’s been drawing just about as much attention as the race itself!!).