Animal Kingdom and jockey John Velazquez will try to take the next step to becoming racing’s first Triple Crown winner in more than three decades when they team up for the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes at historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore this Saturday afternoon.
Velazquez, who made the switch to Animal Kingdom after regular jock Robby Albarado took a spill in a race in late April, made a mad dash in the homestretch to win the 137th Kentucky Derby at 20-1 odds.
Now the tandem will attempt grab the middle jewel of the famed Triple Crown before heading to the Belmont Stakes to claim the coveted title that only 11 horses have managed in the last 92 years.
But first, they beat out 14 other contenders – including Derby favorite Dialed In—all of whom will be chasing a $1 million purse around the 1-3/16 mile course.
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Much like the Derby, this year’s Preakness Stakes are up for grabs. So let’s take a look at the top contenders in this year’s competition.
Post 10: Dialed In (9-2) – The son of Mineshaft figures to have much better go around at the Preakness than his eight-place finish at the Derby, and cannot afford to drop too far back in the early stages if he wants to finish first at the wire. The Nick Zito trainee is the only horse in the field to win two major prep races—the Holy Bull Stakes, and the Florida Derby, but will face a difficult task breaking from post 10. No horse has won from that spot since Real Quiet did in it 1998.
Post 11: Animal Kingdom (2-1) – Graham Motion’s morning line favorite has drawn the dreaded post 11. Only two Preakness winners have ever broke from the 11th position. However, it should be of little concern for the 3-year old colt that won the Derby from an outside draw, coming from behind a slow pace. There should be no problems in this race as the early fractions are expected to be much faster. Since 1984, only three Preakness Stakes’ winners did not run in the Kentucky Derby. However, as favorable as it is for Derby winners to make the trip to Pimlico, getting a horse to peak twice in a two-week period is still a dauntless task.
Post 9: Mucho Macho Man (6-1) – Funny Cide was the last to win the 2003 Preakness from the ninth postposition, but if any contender in this year’s field has the best chance to repeat that feat, it’s the son of Macho Uno who narrowly missed taking second in this year’s Derby. Katherine Ritvo’s trainee was edged out by Nehro at the 1/16th pole, but the shorter distance of the Preakness will likely work to his advantage. He’s never finished worse than third in five two-turn races, and has placed third or better eight times in nine career starts.
5. Shackleford (12-1) – Has finished in the top five in each of his last five races, winning twice and placing once. Just after finishing a close second to Dialed In at the Florida Derby-as a 68-1 long shot– the three-year old colt led the Kentucky Derby from the start until late in the stretch before fading to finish fourth at only 3.5 lengths back. Because the Preakness is a shorter race, the son of Forestry may have just enough left in the tank to hold off the stockers in the homestretch.
8. Dance City (12-1) –This lightly raced colt has just four previous runs, for two wins and two minor placings. He missed the Kentucky Derby, but finished third at his most recent start in the Arkansas Derby. Trained by Todd Pletcher, who yet to win the Preakness Stakes, City is considered the third horse in Pletcher’s stable. Bernadini was the last horse to win from the eighth position in 2006.
1. Astrology (15-1) – Has hit the board in all seven career races, and could be the best bet of those that didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby. The 3-year old hails from the same stable that produced Preakness winners Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009). Rachel is one of three horses that won the Preakness without running in the Derby first.
My pick is Mucho Macho Man. This horse seems to be in the zone and looked strong in the Kentucky Derby. Rajiv Maragh has done a good job since getting the mount after regular rider Eibar Coa was injured in a riding accident at Gulfstream Park in February. The tandem won the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans in their first race, and then placed third in the Louisiana Derby behind Nehro and Pants on Fire who will not compete in this weekend’s Preakness Stakes.
Watch for my mid runner and long shot picks, right here at The Sports Geek.