As the countdown to the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown nears, a few questions remain. By tomorrow at this time we should get final confirmation on who will be entering the starting gate in attempt to put a stop to Animal Kingdom’s Triple Crown bid. While there are contenders returning after the Kentucky Derby, there are several fresh faces making their Triple Crown debut. With the field expecting to reach the Preakness maximum of 14 horses, there is a chance that over half of the field will be horses that bypassed the Kentucky Derby.
Dating back to 2000 there have been 3 Preakness Stakes winners that did not run in the Kentucky Derby, the most recent being Rachel Alexandra in 2009. The other two horses were Bernardini in ’06 and Red Bullet in ’00. Between the years of 1997 and 2004 is when we saw 6 Triple Crown attempts make it through the 2nd leg and onto Belmont before being unraveled. Those Bids: Sliver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide, and Smarty Jones. The most recent horse to follow-up a win in the Kentucky Derby win by taking the Preakness was Big Brown in ’08.
Last year it was Lookin at Lucky who returned with vigor in the Preakness Stakes to confirm his status as a contender for the top 3 yr old in the country after a disappointing trip in the Kentucky Derby. His Derby post position draw was a bit unlucky as he received the dreadful 1 hole, was boxed in on the rail, unable to find the room to move and ultimately left out of contention. His performance in the Preakness, however, was nothing but a dominant win.
So this week in the 2011 Preakness Stakes, there is going to be an interesting combination of possibilities in relation to the past three years. The first question is obvious. Can Animal Kingdom take the 2nd leg and enter into the Belmont Stakes with a chance of ending the Triple Crown drought? The most important advantage Animal Kingdom holds over the field and recent Kentucky Derby winners is his breeding. Within the colt’s pedigree all signs point to him being bred for distance. During his breeding with Team Valor and training with Graham Motion there has always been one constant in mind: Stamina. That’s refreshing to see and will play a part in his chances at taking the Belmont if he walks out of Pimlico with a win in the Preakness Stakes. Another slight advantage on Saturday will be his following. With trainer Graham Motion’s home base just 60 miles northeast of Pimlico there’s a comfort level with his connections that is just a simple perk but in racing, you’re happy to take em when available.
Nehro still hasn’t yet been confirmed but it’s beginning to look very probable. If so, he along with Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man, and Shackleford will be looking to justify their strengths and follow last year’s winner who came back to win after a disappointing trip in the Kentucky Derby. The horse with the most to prove is obviously Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In who finished 8th. It just wasn’t the race Nick Zito and Julien Leparoux were looking for but in the end, it may have just not been his day. There will be a lot of interest on what he shows on Saturday and will tell us a lot about his chances for the Belmont, a race his come from style seems to fit.
Finally, the newcomers are beginning to show signs of being ready to go. Over the last few days early Kentucky Derby trail contenders like Astrology, Sway Away, and Dance City have been working well and showing the form that they were unable to find prior the derby.
On Wednesday morning of this week, all entries must be submitted before the deadline and later in the afternoon the post position draw for the 136th Preakness Stakes will get underway. Here’s to a good Preakness Week and successful handicapping.
Written by: Little Brink