After Animal Kingdom’s resounding two-and-three-quarter length victory in the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby (Grade I), the Triple Crown hype train rolls to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD for the Preakness Stakes (Grade I) in two weeks.
The son of turf specialists Leroidesanimaux and Dalicia was making his first start on dirt after a pair of wins on synthetic surfaces, including in his stakes debut in the Spiral (Grade III) at Turfway Park on March 26. He becomes the first horse in 55 years to win the Kentucky Derby off a six-week layoff.
In his four previous starts, Animal Kingdom was never higher than 3-to-1, and after winning today at 20-to-1, is likely to be a heavy favorite in the Preakness.
Becoming just the fifth horse since 1900 to win the Derby with four or fewer starts, the Graham Motion-trained colt can surely continue to move forward after having no problems with the Derby’s grueling mile and a quarter trip.
It will be interesting to see if there is any discussion regarding who will ride Animal Kingom in the Preakness after John Velazquez was a last-minute Derby replacement for Robby Albarado, who suffered a broken nose earlier in the week, but was kept on his other mounts the past two days.
The two most obvious challengers to upset Animal Kingdom in the Preakness are Derby runner-ups Nehro and Mucho Mach Man.
For Nehro, the Kentucky Derby was his third straight second place finish, but considering he got the perfect trip today, it will be difficult to see him turning the tables on Animal Kingdom, who went a little wide in both turns and experienced some bumping.
Mucho Macho Man followed up his third place finish in the Louisiana Derby (Grade I) by finishing third again and has now finished in the money in 8-of-9 career starts. Being a June 15 foal, he won’t actually turn three until the Triple Crown is over, which also gives him a license to improve as he fills out his massive frame.
With the potential for there to be a lack of early speed in the slightly shorter mile and three sixteenths race, Shackleford could be dangerous at Pimlico after holding on to finish fourth today.
Because he won both the Holy Bull Stakes (Grade III) and Florida Derby (Grade I), Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In is line line for a $5.5 million dollar bonus offered by Magna if he can make amends for today’s disappointing effort and rebound with a Preakness victory.
Speculating what other Kentucky Derby also-rans who finished far back might make the trip to Baltimore is difficult, but we do know who is definitely out.
Archarcharch suffered what could be a career ending injury, while Comma to the Top will be sidelined for at least 60 days due to a bad ankle.
New shooters that could show up in two weeks include Mr. Commons and Anthony’s Cross, who finished third and fifth respectively in the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) and were in consideration for a trip to Louisville until just over a week ago.
After missing an opportunity to run on the first Saturday in May off a fourth place finish in the Arkansas Derby (Grade I), Sway Away is likely to show up in Baltimore as well. He was No. 21 on the earnings list going into the Kentucky Derby and would have benefited from the scratch of Uncle Mo if there was an also-eligible list.
Last year’s Preakness was won by Bob Baffert’s Lookin at Lucky, and although Midnight Interlude disappointed with a 16th-place finish in the Derby, Baffert could have a big shot to repeat at Pimlico.
Whether it’s Midnight Interlude, The Factor or a number of other potential runners from the Baffert barn, he’s likely to find a way to make his presence felt.
Joe Vann, who has won his last three starts by a combined 14 lengths including the Illinois Derby (Grade III), can also be a threat if he’s healthy and makes it to the starting gate in two weeks.
All the speculation won’t last long, as we’re just 11 days from the Preakness draw.