Saturday’s Belmont Stakes has drawn at least 10 potential
starters and These include Triple Crown rivals Animal Kingdom and Shackleford. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winners will be looking to add another trophy.
Animal Kingdom followed last month’s Kentucky Derby conquest with
a second-place finish in the Preakness, just a half-length behind Shackleford. Jockey
John Velzquez guided Animal Kingdom to career-high speed in both affairs, which
were also the colt’s sole two starts on dirt.
Shackleford prevailed in the Preakness with a frontrunner style,
holding on for the win with a gate-to-wire performance. Dale Romans’
contender will be challenged at Belmont Park, stretching out an additional 5/16
of a mile.
Betting odds presently show Animal Kingdom at 4/1 for Saturday’s
showdown, while making Shackleford a 7/1 choice. The duo outlasted
many challengers in last month’s contests who they will have to hold off again
Nehro closed for second-place in the Kentucky Derby, 2 ¾-lengths
behind Animal Kingdom. Trainer Stephen Asmussen passed on the
Preakness with Nehro, who is priced by sports books at 4/1 to avenge his loss
in Louisville at the Belmont Stakes.
Nehro’s bloodline carries some of the biggest respect in the field
as a distance-bred. The closer has earned $825,000 lifetime as the
grandson of 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy and son of Mineshaft, who won
Belmont’s Jockey Club Gold Cup and Suburban Handicap in 2003.
Master of Hounds also passed on the Preakness after finishing
fifth in Kentucky, but is expected to return for the Belmont. The
European invader’s best success this year came as the runner-up in March’s UAE
Derby at Meydan, losing by a nose. Sports books list the 1-for-8
lifetime performer at 6/1 to improve from his Churchill Downs outing and upset
the field in New York.
Mucho Macho Man captured attention in Louisville, cashing show
tickets with a strong closing effort to capture third place. The son
of Macho Uno regressed in the Preakness with a sixth-place showing, unable to
fire late and finishing 7 ½ lengths behind. Katherine Ritvo’s contender
has come in the money with all three career starts on the NYRA circuit, and is
presently listed at 12/1 odds for Saturday’s contest.
Brilliant Speed, Santiva, and Stay Thirsty are Saturday’s three
remaining probables who also competed in the Kentucky
Derby. Brilliant Speed (12/1) had a bad trip at Churchill Downs,
being forced far wide and ending up with a seventh-place
finish. Santiva (12/1) finished just ahead of Brilliant Speed in
sixth, hitting a career-high Beyer speed figure of 95. Stay Thirsty
(20/1) is trainer Todd Pletcher’s sole hopeful for the Belmont, and will need a
big bounce back after his 12th-place showing in Louisville.
Ruler On Ice (22/1) and Monzon (30/1) presently represent the
field’s two longest choices, with both being newcomers to Triple Crown
Ruler On Ice finished second in Pimlico’s Frederico Tesio Stakes,
two lengths behind the Preakness-prep’s winner, Concealed
Identity. Kelly Breen’s colt brings a capable pedigree to the
Belmont, entering as the son of 2005 Haskell Invitational winner Roman Ruler
and grandson of 2000 Kentucky Derby champ Fusaichi Pegasus.
Monzon finished sixth in last month’s Peter Pan Stakes, NYRA’s
traditional prep race for the Belmont. The also-ran will at least
not have to contend Saturday against the Peter Pan’s winner Alternation, whose
connections opted to rest the colt for other contests this
year. Monzon does have a bloodline worth a look, contending as the
son of 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch.
Awesome Patriot, Harlan’s Hello, and Isn’t He Perfect round out
the slate of remaining possible contenders for Saturday’s
battle. The trio has been left off the board by sports books, with
the connections of each presently undecided on entering the fray.
Awesome Patriot won last month’s Alydar Stakes at Hollywood Park
for trainer Bob Baffert, who captured the 2001 Belmont Stakes with Point Given.
Harlan’s Hello is the son of 2002 Kentucky Derby favorite Harlan’s
Holiday and comes in off a 1 1/16-mile win at Belmont Park, four weeks
ago. Isn’t He Perfect was a distant trailer in the Preakness,
finishing ninth after reaching career-high speed with two-time Belmont Stakes
winner Edgar Prado aboard.
Wednesday’s post position draw is scheduled for 11 a.m. (ET), with
MSG Network providing the television coverage. The final lineup of
entrants and morning-line odds will be slated at that time.
Saturday’s post time for the Belmont Stakes is tentatively listed
at 6:30 p.m. (ET), with television coverage from Versus and NBC beginning
at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively. Elmont’s early weather forecast calls
for a high of 78 degrees, with partly cloudy skies and a 20-percent