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May 20, 2011

Animal Kingdom - Triple Crown Champion?

By: By Richard Eng, Pro Pick Racing

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Animal Kingdom was a convincing 2 3/4- length winner of the Kentucky Derby. The three-year-old colt now becomes the lone horse eligible to sweep racing's Triple Crown, which consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The Preakness is this Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

Anyone who thinks Animal Kingdom has a good chance of winning the Triple Crown better do some research first. The last Triple Crown champion was Affirmed back in 1978. That was 33 years ago. Winning the Triple Crown has become as difficult as chasing Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak in baseball.

There are a myriad of theories why there has been no Triple Crown winner in recent decades. I consider some of the most main reasons to be mathematical. First, the three races are attracting maximum size fields of three-year-olds. That means a horse must be the best over 20, 14 and 14 horse fields in each of the three Triple Crown races.

Large fields play a big role in racing luck. With more runners involved, the chances of a horse and jockey getting into trouble at some point are that much greater.

Next is the close timing of the three races within a five week period. The Preakness comes two weeks after the Derby and then the Belmont is three weeks after that.

Modern day horses run less often and with a lot more time between starts than racehorses of the past. In this case, Animal Kingdom will be running for the first time with only two weeks rest between races. Add in the fact that he ran the best race of his life to win the Kentucky Derby and the possibility of regressing in the Preakness is a real danger.

If Animal Kingdom is able to replicate his race in the Kentucky Derby, he'll win the Preakness too. But then the same questions arise three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes. Short rest, three weeks, and the longest distance among the three races, a marathon mile and a half, in another 14 horse field.

Many handicappers consider this generation of three-year-olds to be a modest group at best. The Animal Kingdom bandwagon has exploded, of course, after his Derby win. But the question begs if he has really distanced himself from the group.

The Preakness will solve that. However, I suspect horsemen are already answering the question because talented new contenders are coming out of the woodwork. New Preakness horses that did not run in the Derby include Astrology, Dance City and Sway Away. Many experts feel they are as talented as any of the Derby horses who ran at Churchill Downs.

One last tidbit I'll share is the key race angle. Many horses that exited the Arkansas Derby have come back to run well. Two of them include Arkansas Derby runner-up Nehro who ran second in the Kentucky Derby and Alternation who just won the Peter Pan at Belmont Park.

Both Dance City and Sway Away, who ran third and fourth respectively in the Arkansas Derby, will be in the Preakness field.

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