With Animal Kingdom committed to run in the Belmont Stakes, can Shackleford be far behind?
Those horses, winners of the first two legs of racing's Triple Crown, are expected to contend for the third time at Belmont on June 11. After Animal Kingdom jogged 1-1/2 miles Friday morning at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, trainer Graham Motion pronounced the Kentucky Derby winner fit to go in the race many see as the rubber match between the rival thoroughbreds.
"People are anxious to hear what he (Animal Kingdom) will do, so we're definitely going to take a shot at the Belmont," Motion said.
No word yet on Shackleford, who won the Preakness Stakes Saturday by one-half length over Animal Kingdom. Shackleford's trainer, Dale Romans, reportedly wants a few more days to decide. The day after the Preakness, Romans said there was a better than 50-50 chance he was going to New York.
"If he trains like he did going into the Derby, I don't know why we would pass," Romans said on May 22.
Animal Kingdom has rebounded well from his defeat at Pimlico, his trainer said.
"He ran a harder race there (than in the Derby), but after the last three days of training, I can't be happier with how he's doing," Motion said. "He's a very resilient horse."
The loss didn't affect Animal Kingdom's appetite,
"We've stepped up his feed since the Preakness," his trainer said. "His lunch is gone within an hour of his getting it, which is very unusual."
Motion said he plans to ship Animal Kingdom to New York no later than June 6, the Monday before the race. And he won't lose sleep over whether or not Shackleford shows at Belmont..
"If he is there, it'll be great for the sport," Motion said. "Would it bother me if he didn't run? Probably not. He just beat us in the Preakness, and we'd like to have the best chance to win."