Animal Kingdom's Triple Crown Bid Over Belmont Stakes Rematch with Shackleford
Monday, May 23, 2011
by Bodog Racebook
Animal Kingdom was closing resolutely, but he had been too far back early and had to weave his way through some traffic turning into the stretch for him to get to Shackleford, losing in the end, by 1/2 length.
Some might say that Animal Kingdom “bounced” (regressed) from his dynamic performance at Churchill Downs only two weeks ago. But I think he ran very well considering the circumstances. I also think Shackeford was a most surprising victor, given all the things against him.
First, the son of Forestry had already outrun a pedigree tilted towards speed and one mile races when he just failed to last after setting a brisk pace in the 1-1/8 mile Florida Derby on Apr. 3. Then he spurted to a four length lead at the top of the stretch in the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby May 7.
Even though Shackleford tired late in the Derby to finish fourth, about 3-3/4 lengths behind the surging Animal Kingdom, he still was the leader in the 1-1/4 mile Derby in mid stretch, at approximately the distance of Saturday’s 1-3/16 mile Preakness.
That said, Shackleford was still going to be a surprise Preakness winner with the presence of the speedy FLASHPOINT in the field to ensure a much faster early pace on Saturday. Shackleford went 1:13.40 for six furlongs in the Derby). Usually, a fast, contested pace can take its toll on any horse on or near the early leader, which was the scenario most anticipated for Saturday’s second Jewel in the American Triple Crown.
Then during the 10 minutes preceding the Preakness, we all saw Shackleford wash out badly in the post parade. Fact is, most of us believed that Shackleford was out of sorts with a bad case of nerves going into the starting gate. Forget that horse, I said., along with just about every observer at the track or on TV.
But Shackleford did not care. He shook off his nerves; he shook off the early pressure asserted by Flashpoint—who raced on even terms for the lead through a very fast opening quarter mile fraction of 22.69.
When both Shackleford and Flashpoint suddenly shifted gears to run under quiet control for the next, and moderately clocked second quarter mile in 25.10 seconds, that gave them the chance they needed to go on from there to a strong possible Preakness finish.
Unfortunatley, Flashpoint could not stay on, eventually retiring to last because he simply is a sprinter who was being asked to go at least three furlongs further than his comfort zone. But the well conditioned Shackleford, who had gained stamina in the Florida Derby continued onward towards the most important win of his career, the first Preakness win for trainer Dale Romans and his relatively low profile rider Jesus Castanon.
So now we will have no Triple Crown sweep for the 33rd straight year since Affirmed became the 11th horse to win the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. So now, we will move on to Belmont Park for the 1-1/2 mile Belmont Stakes on June 11, which figures to be another wide open race among a shifting group of 3 year old racehorses who have posted upset after upset through most Graded races since the year began.
No one can definitely say, but the connections of both horses said that if their horses’ look the part during the next several days we should see both in the Belmont.
NEHRO, second in the Derby also is pointing for the Belmont and so might his stablemate ASTROLOGY, who ran a good third in the Preakness, after a pair of seconds in the Sunland Derby in March and Jerome mile at Aqueduct in April.
In addition to Nehro Shackelford and Animal Kingdom, other possible horses for the Belmont include the Euopean based MASTER OF HOUNDS, who finished fifth in the Derby; SANTIVA, who was sixth, ALTERNATION, winner of the Peter Pan and PRIME CUT, a well regarded horse who to date has been unsuccessful in various prep races.
DIALED IN, a slowly gaining forth in the Preakness disappointed his many backers for the second straight time and his Belmont status will be determined next week.
“We might try a grass race for him,” trainer Bob Baffert said.
Why, if Baffert was not convinced that Midnight Interlude was 100 percent ready for a top performance, did he put him in the Preakness? Certainly, the public had as much faith in him getting to the wire first as they did Shackleford given their relative pari mutual odds and most of that money came on Baffert’s reputation in this race. He had, after all won five running fo the Preakness, including last year with Lookin At Lucky.
SWAY AWAY, the horse who was excluded from the Derby due to his marginal lack of Graded Stakes earnings, finished 12th on Saturday and performed as if he should have stayed in the barn. Ditto for MR. COMMONS (8th); KING CONGIE (7th); NORMAN ASBJORNSON, (11th ); ISNT HE PERFECT (9th); and CONCEALED IDENTITY (10th); none of whom looked the part of Triple Crown horses.
MUCHO MACHO MAN, a major factor in his previous nine outings, including a third in the Kentucky Derby, had no visible excuse, but could only finish sixth on Saturday. This left trainer Kathy Ritvo with question marks on her forehead, wondering exactly what had happened and where she should go next with her otherwise consistent colt.
Apparently, Mucho Macho Man, lost his left front shoe during the race. Mucho Macho Man was wearing glue-on shoes. Coincidence, perhaps, Mucho Macho Man also lost his right front shoe in the Louisiana Derby, when he finished fourth, at the time his worst career performance. That time, his shoes were affixed with nails.
Similar question marks without such direct answers were on the forehead of this horseplayer as I watched Shackleford outrun his pedigree, outrun his nervous condition, handle the early pace pressure and stay on to the wire to thwart a good Derby winner’s latest Triple Crown bid. Oh well, those that did believe in Shackleford got a good payoff at the windows and I think they deserved every penny.
- Racebook: Animal Kingdom Readies for the 2011 Preakness Stakes
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- Online Horse Racing Odds: Handicapping the 2011 Triple Crown
- 2011 Belmont Stakes Betting Tips: Nehro Will Come Out On Top