By New York Racing Association
Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up Animal Kingdom will run in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 11, trainer Graham Motion said today.
“We just made the decision that he will be coming to the Belmont,” said Motion, speaking from the training center at Fair Hill, Md., where Animal Kingdom has been stabled since finishing a half-length behind Shackleford in the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown. “He bounced out of the Preakness very well and we are looking forward to running in the Belmont Stakes. He will probably come to Belmont Park the week leading up to race, depending on where we decide to have his final workout.”
Animal Kingdom, a 2 ¾-length winner of the May 7 Derby under jockey John Velazquez, will be bidding to become just the 12th horse in history to complete the Derby-Belmont double, a feat last accomplished by 1995’s 3-Year-Old Champion, Thunder Gulch. Swale (1984), Bold Forbes (1976), Riva Ridge (1972), Chateaugay (1963), Needles (1956), Middleground (1950), Shut Out (1942), Johnstown (1939), Twenty Grand (1931) and Zev (1923) were the only others to win the first and last races in the Triple Crown.
The 1 ½-mile Belmont, which will be run for the 143rd time as the oldest and longest leg of the series, is likely to feature a rematch between Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, which would mark the first Triple Crown rubber match since 2005, when Derby winner Giacomo finished seventh behind Preakness winner Afleet Alex. Shackleford, currently training at Churchill Downs, is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park early next week, with a final decision on the Belmont Stakes expected shortly thereafter.
Animal Kingdom, who made his first start on conventional dirt in the Derby, has earned $1,938,700 for Team Valor International and is 3-3-0 in six lifetime starts.
Among the others under consideration for the Belmont, which has a maximum field of 16, are Grade 2 Peter Pan winner Alternation; Brilliant Speed, seventh in the Kentucky Derby; Harlan’s Hello, winner of an optional claimer at Belmont; Isn’t He Perfect, ninth in the Preakness; Master of Hounds, fifth in the Derby; Mucho Macho Man, sixth in the Preakness; Monzon, sixth in the Peter Pan; Derby runner-up Nehro; Prime Cut, third in the Peter Pan; Ruler On Ice, second in the Frederico Tesio at Pimlico; Santiva, sixth in the Derby, and Stay Thirsty, 12th in the Derby. Trainer Bob Baffert may send Uncle Sam or Awesome Patriot, the first two finishers in Hollywood Park’s May 8 Alydar, to the race.