The Brock Talk

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Preakness Pulling In Plenty Of Competition For Derby Winner Animal Kingdom

Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands winner Animal Kingdom has arrived at trainer Graham Motion’s base at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland. There he will prepare for the Preakness Stakes (gr. 1) to be run at Pimlico Race Course in nearby Baltimore, May 21. Animal Kingdom jogged one mile Tuesday morning and Motion said he will likely jog for a few days before beginning a daily gallop routine leading up to the second leg of the Triple Crown. Motion has not said whether he plans to work Animal Kingdom before the Preakness.

As expected when a 20-1 shot wins the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness looks like it will feature a full gate of challengers. According to the Pimlico media department, the connections behind 20 horses are hoping to have one of the 14 available slots in the Preakness starting gate including Animal Kingdom and six others from the Kentucky Derby. There are also 12 newcomers to the Triple Crown trail whose connections have said they are planning to take on Animal Kingdom in the 1-3/16 mile Preakness – 110 yards shorter than the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby starters planning on wheeling back into the Preakness include Animal Kingdom (1st), Nehro (2nd), Mucho Macho Man (3rd), Shackleford (4th), Santiva (6th) Dialed In (8th), and Midnight Interlude (16th).

While Dialed In was disappointing as the Kentucky Derby favorite, the late closing son of Mineshaft was handicapped by the incredibly slow pace in the Kentucky Derby as trainer Nick Zito explained Monday. “They ran the slowest first three-quarters in the Derby since 1947 and my horse ran the second fastest (final) half-mile (in :47.02),” Zito said. “Only Secretariat ran a faster final half (:46 2/5). He (Dialed In) was not a short horse. We are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing with him when he was in Florida.”

Credit jockey Julio Castanon for slowing down the Kentucky Derby pace with the speedy Shackleford and putting the Florida Derby runner-up in position to win at the top of the stretch. Before 1910, half-mile splits in :49-plus were commonplace. But in the 100 years since 1910, only Jet Pilot (1947), Clyde Van Dussen (29), Misstep in the 1928 Derby won by Reigh Count, Viva America in the 1918 Exterminator Derby and Worth in 1912 have been slower than Shackleford. Only six others ran the first half-mile in the Derby in :48s with Rockhill Native being the last. In the 1980 Derby won by Genuine Risk, he lead the field after a half-mile in :48 flat.

Dialed In will also be trying for the biggest payday in North American racing history with his 5.5 bonus made possible by winning the Florida Derby. Should he also win the Preakness, an additional $5 million will be paid to owner Robert LaPenta and $500,000 to Zito. With the $600,000 winner’s share of the Preakness, it would be a $6.1 million pay-day eclipsing the $5.8 million earned by Smarty Jones for winning the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby.

Among the Triple Crown rookies expected in the Preakness are Astrology, Dance City, Mr. Commons, Flashpoint, Sway Away and the locally based Norm Asbjornson.

Trained by Steve Asmussen Astrology was on the road to the Kentucky Derby before an illness slowed his winter progress. Second in both the Sunland Derby (gr. 3) in March and Jerome Handicap (gr. 2) in late April, Astrology worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 at Churchill Downs Monday morning preparing for the Preakness. Two days earlier, Shackleford ran the first six furlongs in the Kentucky Derby exactly one second slower than Astrology's work.

Dance City is a lightly raced Todd Pletcher trainee who last finished third behind Archarcharch and Nehro in the Arkansas Derby (gr. 1) in early April. The John Shirreffs-trained Mr. Commons also finished third in his last race, the grade 1 Santa Anita Derby behind winner Midnight Interlude and Comma to the Top in second. Sway Away was a late charging second behind The Factor in the San Vincente Stakes in Februay before finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby in his last race.

Norman Asbjornson is based at Pimlico with trainer Chris Grove, has at least more credentials than most Maryland-based Preakness runners. In March, the son of 1998 Preakness winner Real Quiet finished second to Stay Thirsty in the Gotham Stakes (gr. 2), and was fourth, beaten only 4-1/2 lengths by Toby’s Corner in the New York Casino Wood Memorial (gr. 1) in April.

At one time trainer Bob Baffert had indicated that Rebel Stakes winner The Factor was possible for the Preakness but has now said that the Woody Stephens at Belmont Park will be his next race. In another Preakness note, jockey Robbie Albarado, who was taken off Animal Kingdom the day before the Kentucky Derby because the connections deemed his injuries to serious to ride, has picked up the Preakness mount on King Congie.

There have been 21 horses win both the Derby and the Preakness. Big Brown (2008), Smarty Jones (’04) and Funny Cide (’03) are the most recent. A victory by Animal Kingdom and he’s number 22. More important, a Preakness victory also means he will then have a chance at becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner. Even though Animal Kingdom has the Kentucky Derby victory on his resume, it appears he’s not scarring anybody out of the Preakness. Just more than ten days away from the second leg of the Triple Crown and 19 horses are considering the race. Dialed In has 6.1 million incentives while others have plenty with just the $600,000 and history.

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