Animal Kingdom made 2-1 favorite for Belmont

Derby winner gets nod despite starting from difficult No. 9 stall

June 08, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

Kentucky Derby winnerAnimal Kingdom was made a 2-1 morning-line favorite Wednesday for the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes after he drew the No. 9 stall in the post position draw.

Animal Kingdom, who is conditioned by Maryland trainer Graham Motion, will have his work cut out for him as he tries to become just the 12th horse to win the Derby and the Belmont. Only four winners have come from that position since 1905. But Motion said he doesn't think it will matter much. When horses are running a mile and a half, post position is less important.

"It doesn't change anything for us," Motion told reporters in New York. "I don't think it's going to take him out of his game."

Motion did however acknowledge that his horse may have a slight advantage onShackleford, the horse that bested him by half a length at the Preakness.

Shackleford drew the No. 12 post position, a tough spot to be in for a speed horse in the longest race of the year, especially considering he'll likely have to run wide going into the first turn if he's going to run out front and chase the lead. No horse has ever won the Belmont from that position.

"It's not a very long run to the first turn, so I do think it's important," he said. "I'm glad I'm not hung out there [like Shackleford]."

Shackleford's trainer, Dale Romans, downplayed the idea that post position will affect the strategy of he and jockey Jesus Castanon.

"In a mile-and-a-half race, the post position isn't that important," Romans said. "With No. 12, he'll be the last one in and the first one out. Hopefully, he'll be able to clear the field."

Belmont handicapper Eric Donovan, though, seems to believe it will be a factor. In a small surprise, he went with Derby runner-upNehro, who drew the No. 6 post, as his second choice at 4-1. Shackleford was the third choice at 9-2.

Although there is no chance for a horse to win the Triple Crown, there is still a measure of intrigue at the Belmont, the third and final leg of the American classics. This marks the first time the Derby winner and the Preakness winner will face one another at the Belmont since 2005. And for the first time, the top seven finishers from the Derby are running in the Belmont.

Animal Kingdom, who is already in New York preparing for the race, had an exceptional workout earlier in the week, breezing a half mile in 47.8 seconds. Motion said this week that he's heard plenty of talk about how this class of 3-year-olds isn't particularly impressive, but he's not buying into it. He expects Animal Kingdom and Shackleford to have another thrilling duel, and Nehro to be right in the mix as well.

"I find it odd that we look to knock these horses when they just put on a great show on Preakness day," Motion said. "I think they look like two really nice horses and hopefully they can come back and validate that in the Belmont. ... I don't think this year is any different. I think what my horse has achieved in being such a lightly raced horse and only having two races on the dirt, I think it's pretty extraordinary and unparalleled to be honest."

The race also features Monzon (30-1), a Maryland-bred colt that many hope will mark the beginning of a revival for the historic Sagamore Farm, now owned by Under Armour founder and CEOKevin Plank. Monzon is believed to be the first horse from Sagamore Farm to run in a Triple Crown race since Native Dancer in 1953.

kvanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kvanvalkenburg

Post position and odds

1.Master of Hounds (10-1)

2.Stay Thirsty (20-1)

3. Ruler On Ice (20-1)

4.Santiva (15-10)

5.Brilliant Speed (15-1)

6. Nehro (4-1)

7. Monzon (30-1)

8. Prime Cut (15-1)

9. Animal Kingdom (2-1)

10.Mucho Macho Man (10-1)

11.Isn't He Perfect (30-1)

12. Shackleford (9-2).

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