The Belmont is tomorrow, and the buzz is still about Animal Kingdom--although some other contenders are getting some attention from horseracing experts.
The third race in thoroughbred horse racing's Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, seems to be Animal Kingdom's race. But several spoilers will be running the 1 1/2-mile race against him on Saturday, including Preakness winner Shackleford.
Shackleford, who was leading in the Kentucky Derby until the final stretch but was passed by three--Animal Kingdom, Nehro and Mucho Macho Man--will face all three of those horses again in the Belmont, along with legitimate contenders Santiva and Master of Hounds. Rounding out the field are Stay Thirsty, Ruler on Ice, Monzon, Brilliant Speed, Prime Cut, and Isn't He Perfect.
Animal Kingdom was the subject of a raving article in The New York Times by racing maven Joe Drape, who wrote that the colt's workout on Monday suggested his best race may come Saturday in the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes. Other experts agree and are naming Animal Kingdom the horse to beat. The horse will be starting from the ninth post position, and his morning line odds are 2-1.
He'll need to best Nehro again to do so. Nehro, trained by Steve Assmussen and ridden by Corey Nakatani, was lodged in second place for much of the the Kentucky Derby. He sat out the Preakness in preparation for the Belmont, and his owner, Ahmed Zayat, is bullish on the colt's chances on Saturday. We're ready, he repeated a few times to reporters. Nehro currently sits at 4-1, and could be a good horse in more exotic wagering scenarios.
Mucho Macho Man had trouble with a shoe in the Preakness (for the second time in his short career) and reportedly has had trouble keeping weight on. Betters will pay attention to the colt, who is currently sitting at 10-1, but his chances of upsetting the favorites is not good.
Master of Hounds fought back from 15th place in the Kentucky Derby to pull within fifth at the conclusion, and his breeding suggests endurance. It might take the race of his young life to win the Belmont, but he has it in him. He'll be coming from the rail--Master of Hounds drew the first post position.
Santiva was also gaining on the leaders at the end of the Derby, and he will likely be a favorite among handicappers, with early odds at 15-1.
Here are who some of the experts are picking:
Joe Drape, New York Times: Animal Kingdom
Steven Crist, Daily Racing Form: Master of Hounds
Bruce Beck, NBC: Brilliant Speed
Amanda Duckworth, ESPN: Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom--the colt is all anyone seems to talk about. But nobody seems to thrive on the status of an underdog like Shackleford (9-2), who has surprised in almost every race. Unfortunately for trainer Dale Romans and jockey Jesus Castanon, he'll start off the Belmont from the 12th slot in the gate. He'll need his speed to avoid getting caught behind the crowd.
Will Nehro's rest make him a better contender for a Belmont win? Can Shackleford, who represents (the only?) early speed in the race, stay in front to win The Test of Champions? Or will Animal Kingdom wash away some of the bitterness of his Preakness defeat with a big victory in the Triple Crown's longest race?
We'll find out at 6:35 p.m. ET on Saturday.