Less than one hour after Animal Kingdom emerged victorious in the 137th Kentucky Derby, Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor International who owns the chestnut colt was non-committal about running in the Preakness. What?! Say it isn’t so! The mere thought of the Derby winner skipping the Preakness congers up bad memories from 1996 when an injury days after winning the Derby, ended Grindstone’s racing career. Then in 1985 when the owners of Derby winner Spend A Buck were lured by a $2.6 million bonus to run in the Jersey Derby instead of the Preakness.
Now before everyone gets their jockey shorts all in a bunch, Mr. Irwin’s statement was made in the best interest of the horse. All good horsemen put the horse first. And until trainer H. Graham Motion thoroughly checks out Animal Kingdom, to make sure he came out of the Derby in fine shape, they will not publicly commit to the Preakness. Late Sunday afternoon, the Animal Kingdom camp announced that the colt would indeed be entereed to run in the Preakness.
I am eager to know the answers to the following two (2) questions…
#1: Will Animal Kingdom be shipped from Kentucky to Pimlico and take up temporary residence in Stall 40 of the Pimlico Stakes Barn, historically reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner or will he be shipped to Fair Hill, MD (45 miles northeast of Pimlico) where trainer H. Graham Motion stables and trains many of his horses?
Note: Animal Kingdom was stabled and trained at Keeneland in Lexington, KY as he prepped for the Derby.
#2: Will jockey John Velazquez ride Animal Kingdom in the Preakness and Belmont, if Uncle Mo or any other Todd Pletcher trained colt is entered to run in any of the two remaining Triple Crown races?
Note: Velazquez and Pletcher have had arguably the most solid jockey-trainer relationship the sport has seen in the past decade. If not for Uncle Mo’s scratch from the Derby, coupled with the untimely injury to jockey Robby Albarado who was originally named to ride Animal Kingdom, but replaced by Velazquez, a decision made by the ownership group, Velazquez might have gone another year without winning his 1st Derby.
Updated on May 9th with Answers: On Monday, Drew Forrester, host of WNST’s Morning Reaction interviewed trainer H. Graham Motion and asked him both questions…
#1 – Animal Kingdom has NEVER trained at Fair Hill but will be shipped from Kentucky to Fair Hill on Tuesday where he will train for the Preakness (May 21st). The plan is that he’ll be vanned from Fair Hill to PImlico one day before the race (Friday, may 20th). Boy, if he doesn’t show until that afternoon, the local and national media will blow their brains out. Especially the “local yocals” who usually only care about (and know) the Derby winner.
#2 – When asked whether John Velazquez would retain the mount for the Preakness, Motion sheepishly stated, “I certainly hope that he does”. That bascially tells me that if Todd Pletcher runs a horse (Dance City is being considered) in the Preakness, Velazquez will be on that one and not the Derby winner. No problem. Motion can make it up to Robby Albarado and give the mount back to him, right ?! Wrong! Less than 24 hours ago Albarado was named to ride King Congie in the Preakness. Let the drama unfold… stay tuned!
With the final Preakness prep race (aka Kentucky Derby) now in the books, there are plenty of potential starters for the 2nd jewel of the Triple Crown waiting in the wings to take on Animal Kingdom on the 3rd Saturday in May. They are…
Astrology - 2nd in Jerome Handicap @ Aqueduct on Apr. 23rd
Concealed Identity – won Federico Tesio Stakes @ PImlico on May 7th
Dance City - 3rd in Arkansas Derby @ Oaklawn Park on Apr. 16th
Dialed In - 8th in Kentucky Derby on May 7th
Flashpoint – 4th in Florida Derby @ Gulfstream Park on Apr. 3rd
King Congie - 3rd in Blue Grass Stakes @ Keeneland on Apr. 16th
Mr. Commons – 3rd in Santa Anita Derby @ Santa Anita on Apr. 9th
Mucho Macho Man - 3rd in Kentucky Derby on May 7th
Norman Asbjornson - 4th in Wood Memorial @ Aqueduct on Apr. 9th
Prime Cut – 2nd in Coolmore Lexington Stakes @ Keeneland on Apr. 23rd
Santiva - 7th in Kentucky Derby on May 7th
Shackleford - 4th in Kentucky Derby on May 7th
Sway Away - 4th in Arkansas Derby @ Oaklawn Park on Apr. 16th
note: The Preakness is limited to 14 starters.