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May 20, 2011

Animal Kingdom versus 13 in Preakness Stakes


Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will face 13 challengers in Saturday's 136th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. The three-year-old colt is the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 1 3/16-mile middle jewel of racing's Triple Crown.

The final leg of the Triple Crown series will be the $1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 11 at Belmont Park. There has not been a Triple Crown sweep since Affirmed in 1978.

Owned by Team Valor International, Animal Kingdom is coming off a 'come from behind' 2 3/4-length victory two weeks ago at Churchill Downs in the Run for the Roses. The margin of victory was a duplicate of the colt's win in the Vinery Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 26.

Animal Kingdom, trained by Graham Motion, will again be ridden by John Velazquez with the pair starting from post 11. Robby Albarado was scheduled to ride the colt in the Derby, but was replaced when he suffered a broken nose three days before the race.

The Preakness will be the three-year-old's second start ever on a real dirt track.

"No doubt, he exceeded my expectations," Motion said. "Even though he had a very, very good work on the dirt, it was certainly an unknown to us at that point as to how he was going to handle it. We certainly had a good feeling about running him on the dirt, but until you actually lead them over there you don't really know."

A winner of three of his five career starts, Animal Kingdom has banked $1,738,700, $1.4 million coming from the Derby victory.

Based at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, MD, the colt will be brought to Pimlico the morning of the $1 million Preakness.

"I don't see any reason to do it any differently. That's the way I'm leaning," Motion said. "I just don't see why I need to change his world on Friday. He's here, he's happy and I just don't see the benefit to getting him over there the day before."

Robert LaPenta's Dialed In, the defeated Kentucky Derby favorite, will break from post 10 with Julien Leparoux in the saddle. The colt, trained by Nick Zito, is the 9-2 second choice after his eighth-place finish two weeks ago.

Dialed In won the Holy Bull Stakes and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park with a second-place finish in an allowance race sandwiched in between. He has won three of five career starts for $879,206.

Should Dialed In win the Preakness, he would earn a $5 million bonus for his owner and $500,000 for his trainer.

"(LaPenta) needs to pay the bills like I do. I need to pay the feed man; he needs to keep buying horses; so that's the good part of the bonus. But Bob and I talked about it, and we just want to focus on winning the Preakness," Zito said. "I talked with Bob, and he wants to win the bonus, but that's not what he's in the game for. He's in the game to win the Preakness - that's what he wants. He'd rather have the trophy.

"For me, it's a different story. If the horse crosses the line (first), the feed guys will be standing in line. It'll all go to the feed man."

In 1996 Zito saddled Louis Quatorze to victory in the Preakness after the colt was 16th in the Derby.

"I just think for some reason with 20 horses - the big field - some of these horses really don't get the chance to show how good they are," Zito said. "In our case, we didn't get a break the way the race was run. We've got a lot of people starting to give him credit for the race he ran."

Mucho Macho Man, third in the Kentucky Derby, has drawn post nine for Saturday and will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh. Trained by Kathy Ritvo, the colt is 6-1 in the program and is co-owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing Stable.

In nine career starts Mucho Macho Man has two wins, including the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Racecourse in February. He began the year at Gulfstream Park with a fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes and six weeks prior to the Run for the Roses the colt was third in the Louisiana Derby.

His owners have pocketed $610,643 in winnings.

Here is the complete field for the Preakness in post position order: Astrology, 15-1, Mike Smith; Norman Asbjornson, 30-1, Julian Pimentel; King Congie, 20-1, Robby Albarado; Flashpoint, 20-1, Cornelio Velasquez; Shackleford, 12-1, Jesus Castanon; Sway Away, 15-1, Garrett Gomez; Midnight Interlude, 15-1, Martin Garcia; Dance City, 12-1, Ramon Dominguez; Mucho Macho Man, 6-1, Rajiv Maragh; Dialed In, 9-2, Julien Leparoux; Animal Kingdom, 2-1, John Velazquez; Isn't He Perfect, 30-1, Edgar Prado; Concealed Identity, 30-1, Sheldon Russell and Mr. Commons, 20-1, Victor Espinoza.

All 14 starters will carry 126 pounds.

The Preakness Stakes will be televised by NBC Sports with post-time at 6:25 p.m. (et). The weather forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high temperature of 83.

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