Animal Kingdom looks for Triple Crown

Updated: May 11, 2011, 3:12 PM ET
By Jay Privman | Daily Racing Form



LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Animal Kingdom ruled over 18 other 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Derby Saturday, and it looks as if he'll face another large field May 21 in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. But the composition of the two fields will be in stark contrast, as no more than four of the 18 horses Animal Kingdom defeated in the 137th Derby likely will come back for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Most notable among Animal Kingdom's challengers will be Dialed In, who finished eighth as the favorite in the Derby and will be shooting for a $5.5 million bonus in the Preakness. Mucho Macho Man, who was third Saturday, and Shackleford, who was fourth, also are expected. Santiva, who was sixth, is possible.

Everyone else who ran in the Derby is either off the Triple Crown trail -- as in the cases of Archarcharch and Comma to the Top, both of whom were injured -- or, like Derby runner-up Nehro, awaiting the final leg of the Triple Crown, the June 11 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

But a host of new shooters for the Triple Crown, led by Jerome runner-up Astrology and Arkansas Derby third-place finisher Dance City, are expected for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Others expected are Concealed Identity, Flashpoint, King Congie, Norman Asbjornson, Prime Cut, and Sway Away. Mr. Commons is possible for the race.

That brings the prospective Preakness field to 14, though not that many are expected to be entered May 18. The Preakness field's maximum is 14. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters.

Animal Kingdom came out of the Derby in good condition and was scheduled to be sent to the Fair Hill training center in Maryland on Tuesday, trainer Graham Motion said. Motion said Animal Kingdom would remain there until late next week and would van down to Pimlico "probably as late as I can."

"It's an odd feeling to have won the Derby, and then you've got to start thinking about winning the Preakness," Motion said. "It's a little daunting."

Animal Kingdom was making only his fifth lifetime start Saturday, but he handled the day like a veteran. He was calm before the race, despite the record crowd, and settled well in traffic until being prodded for his stretch run by jockey John Velazquez.

"He handled everything so well," Motion said. "He was so relaxed that Johnny said it made him relax."

Motion is from Britain but has been based in the Maryland area for nearly three decades, since coming to the United States as a teenager.

"Just going to the Preakness with the Derby winner is extraordinary," he said. "I've thought about it, but I never imagined it could happen."

Nor did he imagine having a new title.

"I guess I'll always be considered a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer," Motion said. "I never imagined that."

Motion said he lingered for a few moments in the infield during the postrace celebration, consciously trying to take in the scene.

"It's something I may never do again," he said. "I wanted to take it in. It goes by so quickly."

Both Dialed In and Shackleford will remain at Churchill Downs until flying to Maryland in the middle of next week. Dialed In won both the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park earlier this year. That made him eligible for a $5.5 million bonus from MI Developments, the parent company of both Gulfstream and Pimlico, if he also were to win the Preakness.

The lucrative bonus was one of the reasons cited by trainer Nick Zito as worth pursuing the Preakness with Dialed In.

"All horses are different," Zito said. "This horse might like being wheeled right back. And, you're right, we've thought about the big bonus."

Last year, Zito bypassed the Preakness with Derby runner-up Ice Box to await the Belmont, a decision he said he now questions.

"I made a mistake with Ice Box," he said. "I should have gone on."

Mucho Macho Man traveled to New York on Sunday to join a string of horses trainer Kathy Ritvo will have this summer at Belmont Park. That is where Mucho Macho Man will do his training in the fortnight leading up to the Preakness.

"I thought he ran well, finished strong, and came back good," Ritvo said of Mucho Macho Man's performance. "I don't think I could have asked for him to have run any better and I think he can only get better from here."

Both Animal Kingdom and Mucho Macho Man came into the race not having run in six weeks, proving that good horses, and good trainers, are capable of preparing a horse for the Derby without a more recent prep. Nehro, the second-place finisher, was coming back on three weeks' rest. Shackleford, who was fourth, had not run in five weeks.

Of the Preakness newcomers, Astrology worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 at Churchill Downs on Monday morning for trainer Steve Asmussen. And at Belmont Park, King Congie went five furlongs in 1:01.14 for trainer Tom Albertrani.

Several Derby horses suffered injuries or significant setbacks.

Archarcharch, whose saddle slipped early in the race, suffered a condylar fracture to his left front cannon bone and has been retired.

Comma to the Top, who finished last after pressing the early pace, has a chip in his left front ankle that will be removed via surgery upon his return home to California. He was scheduled to fly there Monday.

Pants On Fire bled in his trachea during the race and will be given a rest, with the focus of his summer campaign the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, where he will be based with trainer Kelly Breen.

Master of Hounds, who finished well for fifth, is returning to Ireland. His locally based connections said he could come back in the fall for the Breeders' Cup, which would mark his third trip to Churchill Downs in 12 months.

-- additional reporting by David Grening, Marty McGee, and Mike Welsch