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May 27, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            The 136th running of the Preakness Stakes is in the books and we will not be going to the Belmont with a chance at a Triple Crown for another year. The last Triple Crown winner was back in 1978 when AFFIRMED outgamed ALYDAR in the Test of Champions to nail down the Triple Crown.

            In this years’ running of the Preakness the favorite in the race was the Kentucky Derby winner ANIMAL KINGDOM who was sent off as the 2-1 favorite. In a field of 14 horses there were only three horses that were single digit odds, ANIMAL KINGDOM at 2-1, DIALED IN (the Derby favorite) was sent off as the second choice at 4-1 and MUCHO MACHO MAN who was sent off as the 3rd choice at 5-1. As the race unfolded early on there looked like there would be more speed than we saw in the Derby and there certainly was. FLASHPOINT, who showed brilliance in his first two sprint tries but was a well beaten fourth in the Florida Derby was sent right to the lead from post 4 and was engaged quickly by SHACKLEFORD through fractions of 22:3, 46:4. As they moved to the far turn, SHACKLEFORD assumed the lead from FLASHPOINT who began to tire, while ASTROLOGY who saved ground throughout was not that far off the leader as they entered the lane. Into the stretch SHACKLEFORD held a length lead with ASTROLOGY not that far off on the rail, in the mean time ANIMAL KINGDOM was weaving his way through traffic to get into contention in the lane but his run came just a half length short to the game but tired SHACKLEFORD, ASTROLOGY was another 1 and ¼ lengths back in third. DIALED IN who was highly touted heading into this Triple Crown run could only muster a fourth place finish after trailing the field of 14 early on. DIALED IN was going for a huge bonus of $5.5 million based on his victories in the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby, if he could have added the Preakness, $5 million would have went to the owner Robert LaPenta and $500,000 would have went to his trainer Nick Zito.

            As of now it looks like the top two finishers will give the Belmont Stakes a try but with two weeks remaining nothing is definite right now. There will be some new shooters heading to the Belmont, ALTERNATION who won the Peter Pan Stakes over the Belmont oval is pointing to the race as well as some Derby also rans like STAY THIRSTY, MASTER OF HOUNDS and SANTIVA. NEHRO who finished a solid second behind ANIMAL KINGDOM in the Kentucky Derby is another that is expected to run. MUCHO MACHO MAN who was third in the Derby and then followed that up with sixth place finish in the Preakness where he again lost a shoe is also under consideration for the Belmont Stakes.

            Overall when you look at the Preakness and the swift early fractions the final time of the race was nothing special as it went in 1:56:2 as it has become obvious that this three year old crop is mediocre at best. As they continue on in their three year old year a horse is eligible to improve but this crop doesn’t have any superstars, in fact some of these horses that have run in the Derby and Preakness may have futures on the turf.

            FLASHPOINT who finished 14th and last after setting the pace should be moved back into sprints where he excelled earlier this year, the same can go for SWAY AWAY who just never seemed comfortable especially after getting very hot before the race as he checked in 12th. His sprint races were very good and it would seem the logical move to turn him back in distance. MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE, a Bob Baffert trainee who won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in his fourth career start has been up the track in both the Derby and Preakness and is very well bred for the grass and that may be the next move for this son of WAR CHANT. KING CONGIE who is clearly better on the turf and synthetics will probably be pointed to a spot over one of those surfaces.

            We will see you back here in three weeks with a summary of the Belmont Stakes a race that certainly has a look of a solid betting race if all the horses that are point to it show up.

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