Animal, plan it
Granted, Animal Kingdom outran a relatively weak field when he made his dirt racing debut and won the Kentucky Derby as a 20-1 long shot. Going into the Derby with six weeks of rest, he proved to be the best and raced the final quarter in a razor-sharp 24.55 seconds. All of that suggests the well-bred colt is capable of a comparable performance at Pimlico — where he will be facing an even weaker field than the one he dominated at Churchill Downs.
Don't count out my Derby pick, Dialed In. After encountering traffic problems at the start, he made a belated stretch move to finish eighth as the 5-1 favorite. The winner of the Holy Bull and Florida Derby at Pimlico's sister track, Gulfstream Park, will hit a $5.5 million three-race bonus jackpot if he wins the Preakness for owner Robert LaPenta and trainer Nick Zito. Bettor beware.
Watch Mucho Macho
Los Angeles Times
The best horse in the Preakness is Animal Kingdom, the impressive winner of the Kentucky Derby.
But the Derby lacked the expected early speed that would benefit the traditional deep-stretch closers. The Preakness should be very different with Flashpoint forcing a strong early pace. It's easy to pick the 2-1 favorite, but Animal Kingdom is an underlay at that price. I suspect he'll win, but he's not the smart choice.
I'm going to take a shot on Mucho Macho Man. He never has been off the board in nine starts and showed a decent finish in the Derby. Underneath, you've got to have Animal Kingdom and Dialed In, who should benefit from a fast pace. As for a horse to throw into the exotics for a price, I like Dance City, who finished third in the Arkansas Derby.
Dialed In calling
Almost every major 3-year-old race, including the Kentucky Derby, has produced an upset.
Animal Kingdom's Derby triumph was visually scintillating. However, the race was slowly run with leisurely early fractions. Theoretically, this makes Animal Kingdom's come-from-behind surge more impressive. But slow races often produce strange results because it keeps lesser talent in contention.
With more early speed, the Preakness fractions should be lively. If Animal Kingdom has to run faster early to stay in touch, will he have the same kick? If so, he probably wins again.
But Dialed In, who always drops back to last, ran a faster final half-mile. Alas, the field didn't come back to him, as happens when the pace is quick. Given the likely odds, Dialed In is a better bet than a short-priced Animal Kingdom.
He's an Animal lover
I don't know that Animal Kingdom is a horse for the ages. In fact I doubt he is.
But I do believe he is the best 3-year-old still racing this year, and that's why he's going to win the Preakness.
People tend to overthink this stuff. They analyze how much rest a horse has had, what surfaces he has run on, and what post position he draws.
That matters some at the Kentucky Derby, but in general, the best horse steps up and wins the Preakness. That's Animal Kingdom.
He has shown he isn't rattled by big crowds or big moments, and jockey John Velazquez is one of the best in this business.
It's going to be a frenzy at Belmont in three weeks. Get ready.