This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Rick Snider of The Washington Examiner…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!
Animal Kingdom’s win is loss for Preakness
The Preakness Stakes appears to be an afterthought on the Triple Crown trail.
After Animal Kingdom’s long-shot victory in perhaps the poorest Kentucky Derby field since 1983, few of those horses are progressing to Pimlico Race Course on May 21. Runner-up Nehro will head to the Belmont Stakes, hoping to beat a tiring Animal Kingdom there. Only Derby losers Mucho Macho Man (third), Shackleford (fourth) and favorite Dialed In (eighth) have committed to the Preakness.
Translation: This Triple Crown leg looks more boring than the NFL labor talks.
The 14-horse starting gate won’t be short on entrants; nine non-Derby runners are possible. However, there’s no star power. Animal Kingdom’s victory at the Derby might have been a fluke, and none of the sport’s top 3-year-olds is healthy. Uncle Mo, once considered a legitimate Triple Crown threat, is sick. Toby’s Corner is also on the mend.
Horse racing has enough trouble attracting crowds without losing its few big names. Crowds at Pimlico plummeted in 2009 after major infield changes, including the ban on bringing in alcohol. Last year’s Preakness saw a recovery to about 95,760, but that still was 21 percent short of 2007’s record crowds. In other words, Pimlico drew significantly smaller crowds despite a more wholesome family atmosphere with quality entertainment.
Nothing draws fans like a big horse, though, and Animal Kingdom doesn’t rate despite a legitimate Derby victory. Belmont will draw heavily should Animal Kingdom also win the Preakness, but for now he’s just some lucky horse from Churchill Downs. Maybe if he was called Animal House and ridden by John Belushi the public might come, but even the colt’s local ties — he’s stabled in Fair Hill, Md., near the Delaware border under trainer Graham Motion — won’t be enough.
The question is whether Animal Kingdom can replicate the quick rise of Derby-winning predecessors Charismatic (1999), Funny Cide (2003) and War Emblem (2005) by also taking the Preakness.
Certainly, Animal Kingdom is an intriguing horse. It’s not often a Derby winner has also won on grass and synthetic tracks in just five career starts. Indeed, he was the first Derby winner with only four previous races since 1918.
Maybe we’re seeing the rise of the next great champion. A resume that includes wins on three racing surfaces surely provides options. Still, Animal Kingdom has no drawing power. His only previous stakes victory was the modest Grade 3 Spiral, which is like hitting a homer at Hagerstown.
The Preakness is an entirely different race than the Derby. It requires speed and tactics rather than the cavalry charge of nearly 20 horses in Louisville. Dialed In may be the favorite; Preakness bettors often have seen a badly beaten Derby choice rebound in Baltimore. If Dialed In stays close early, he has a real chance of beating Animal Kingdom. That is, unless Animal Kingdom proves he’s legit.
And that’s why there are betting machines.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?