As the Triple Crown season comes to an end on Saturday, America will not be treated to a Triple Crown champion for another year. Animal Kingdom looked to be serious threat to break the drought after winning the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Owner Team Valor and trainer Graham Motion raved about his performance and were confident he would repeat in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. However, Shackleford spoiled Team Valor’s dreams of a Triple Crown with a slim victory over the derby champion. Despite the fact that we will have to wait another year for a Triple Crown possibility, the two champions will meet in a rubber match in the Belmont Stakes from Belmont Park.
New York sets the stage for two of the biggest stars in racing to settle the debate about who is the better horse. Animal Kingdom has been given a slight nod and was instilled as the 2-1 favorite. Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro sits at 4-1 with Shackleford as the third betting choice at 9-2.
After finishing 4th in the Kentucky Derby, Shackleford won the Preakness at odds of 12-1 and gave trainer Dale Romans his first Triple Crown victory. Animal Kingdom rallied and hoped to challenge Shackleford in the stretch, but never was afforded the opportunity. These two horses are class acts and are deserving champions. But remember, these two are also running for the 3rd time in five weeks and they are going the “Test of a Champion” distance of 1 1/2 miles.
Trainer Dale Romans contends that his horse can make the distance. However, his front running style has deterred handicappers in a different direction. Animal Kingdom has sat off the pace in his previous 3 starts winning 2 of the 3. With a longer race and a longer stretch, I believe these two factors will work against the Triple Crown champions. It will be interesting to see if Shackleford maintains his running style and if he can hold off the other 11 competitors. And with more dirt flying in horses’ faces, Animal Kingdom may have a harder time finding his late running gear to rally for a win. However, both trainers have given no indications that their horses are not fit and ready to run. They are bringing confidence to the table and hope that their beasts are ready to perform.
$1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I, Race 11, 6:35 p.m.), 3YO, 1 1/2 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Master of Hounds (KY), G K Gomez, 126, A P O’Brien, 10/1
2. Stay Thirsty (KY), J Castellano, 126, T A Pletcher, 20/1
3. Ruler On Ice (KY), J Valdivia Jr., 126, K J Breen, 20/1
4. Santiva (KY), S Bridgmohan, 126, E Kenneally, 15/1
5. Brilliant Speed (FL), J Rosario, 126, T Albertrani, 15/1
6. Nehro (KY), C S Nakatani, 126, S M Asmussen, 4/1
7. Monzon (MD), J Lezcano, 126, I Correas IV, 30/1
8. Prime Cut (KY), E S Prado, 126, N J Howard, 15/1
9. Animal Kingdom (KY), J R Velazquez, 126, H G Motion, 2/1
10. Mucho Macho Man (FL), R A Dominguez, 126, K Ritvo, 10/1
11. Isn’t He Perfect (KY), R Maragh, 126, D Shivmangal, 30/1
12. Shackleford (KY), J L Castanon, 126, D L Romans, 9/2
Typically when betting the Belmont Stakes, I tend to look at horses who skipped the Preakness in favor of rest. These horses are fresher and having run in the derby gives them credibility and experience in a large field with better competition. This year’s entries for the Belmont Stakes feature a handful of derby competitors. In fact the top 7 horses in the Kentucky Derby are competing on Saturday. So from a wagering perspective, I am picking Nehro to capture the blanket of carnations. He has finished 2nd in his last three races (Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby) and has turned in 3 works since the Kentucky Derby. He’s fresh, he’s a fighter, and he’s ready to win. Trainer Steve Asmussen fell short in 2007 with powerhouse Curlin, but looks to rebound with a big win on Saturday. Corey Nakatani remains in the irons, continuing a partnership that has been profitable for the two since early 2010.
This year’s race will be exciting and memorable. Whoever crosses the finish line first will be etched into the history books as a classic champion. There will be a missed absence with no entries belonging to Nick Zito, Bob Baffert, or D. Wayne Lukas. But others will be vying to pick up the torch they have carried in the world of racing over the last 20 years. It’s New York City. It’s the city that never sleeps. It’s the Big Apple. It’s the Belmont Stakes.
We would like to wish all the connections and horses good luck and safe rides. And to you the readers, we would like to thank you for joining us on this memorable ride that began in January. It has been a thrilling time for us and we hope you continue with us as we close the spring racing season and await the summer racing season. Good luck this weekend.
Written by Big Brink