After a runner-up finish in the Preakness Stakes, Trainer Graham Motion confirmed his Kentucky Derby Champion will move onto the 3rd and final leg of the Triple Crown on June 11th at Belmont Park. Based on his early confirmation, it seems pretty clear that Motion feels that Animal Kingdom bounced out of the Preakness very well and that his colt will be ready on Belmont Day. His arrival at Belmont Park is yet to be determined as it will all depend on the location that Motion chooses for the colt’s final gallop. If it is to be at Belmont Park, you can expect him to arrive as early as 5-7 days prior, if it is to be at Fair Hill Training Center, where the colt is now, look for him to arrive 2-3 days before the Belmont. Thunder Gulch was the last horse to complete the Derby – Belmont double in 1995. At this point, Animal Kingdom looks like a strong candidate for the double and attempts to become only the 13th horse, all time, to have completed it.
As for our Preakness Champion, Shackleford, he is currently training in Dale Romans home court, Churchill Downs, before making the move to Belmont on Monday. Although he is still listed as Probable, right now all signs point to him racing in the “Rubber Match”. 2005 was the last time we saw our Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners go at again in the third jewel of the Triple Crown. That year it was Afleet Alex who put away the field in dominating fashion, while Giacomo was not a threat finishing 7th. The rubber match will bring a lot of much deserving excitement to this year’s Belmont Stakes so look for Shackleford to confirm his entry next week.
With these two getting the majority of the early attention, it leaves a horse that finished between them in the Derby out of the news until we get closer to Belmont day. Nehro, a hard charging closer who displayed his stalker style in the both the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby is sure to get much more attention once confirmed. The stretch run at Belmont Park looks and can feel like a mile long and this colt maybe waiting to get there before making his mark on the 2011 Triple Crown. Speaking of closers, it has also been confirmed by Nick Zito that Dialed In will not race in the Belmont Stakes. After two disappointing finishes (8th KYD, 4th Preakness) the colt will take some time off before picking back up in the summer. With 2 winners (Birdstone ’04 — Da’Tara ’08) and a record 24 starters, the New York, NY born and bred trainer will not have an entry in the Belmont Stakes for the first time since 2003.
Finally in other un-expected news, Master of Hounds looks primed and ready to make the trip back across the pond from Ireland to race in the Belmont Stakes. By most accounts, it looked as though we wouldn’t see the colt in the U.S. until the Breeders Cup this fall. However, after his trainer Adian O’Brien declared him “on-target” after his most recent workout, it spices up the Belmont field even more. It is definitely too early to tell but with the recent news surrounding the probables for the Belmont Stakes, the field can potentially be the biggest since 1983 when 15 horses broke from the starting gate. The maximum of 16 horses has been never reached and I don’t expect it to be in 2011. It will be tough to get over 13-14 horses but a field of at least 12 strong looks definite.
Written by: Little Brink