|Graham Motion is happy with his horse’s Preakness draw. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)|
No surprise, Animal Kingdom is now favorite
So much has changed so quickly for Animal Kingdom, and for trainer Graham Motion.
Two weeks ago, the 3-year-old colt was a lightly raced, lightly regarded entrant in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. At the draw he was made a 20-1 shot by Derby handicapper Mike Battaglia.
But in yesterday’s draw for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, Animal Kingdom — to the surprise of no one — was tagged as the 2-1 morning line favorite in the 14-horse field by Preakness oddsmaker Frank Carulli.
Winning the Kentucky Derby merits that kind of respect.
In the largest Preakness field since 2005, one that includes only five holdovers from the Derby, Animal Kingdom will come out of the No. 11 post.
Dialed In, who finished a disappointing eighth in the Derby as the favorite, was the second choice at 9-2 and will run out of the No. 10 post. Mucho Macho Man, who was third in the Derby, is the third Preakness choice at 6-1 and will break out of the No. 9 post.
This will create an interesting “Derby trifecta’’ breaking out of the gates at 9, 10, and 11.
Animal Kingdom will not be part of the prerace scene this week at Pimlico, as Motion will keep his horse at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., which is about an hour north of Baltimore, until Saturday morning.
“I think he’s super,’’ said Motion after Animal Kingdom’s gallop on Fair Hill’s all-weather Tapeta track yesterday morning. “I feel very good about where he is at.’’
Motion was also happy with the draw.
“It’s great,’’ he said. “I couldn’t be happier, really. I just would rather be on the outside than stuck down on the inside.’’
The horse that many felt good about in the Derby was Dialed In, whose trainer, Nick Zito, said the slow early pace was a factor in Dialed In’s performance.
“You don’t like to say, ‘Throw out the Derby,’ ’’ said Zito, “but a lot of horses have done that over the years, whether they don’t get a break the way the race is run or they have traffic problems. In our case, we didn’t get a break the way the race was run.
“We’ve got a lot of people starting to give him credit for the race he ran.’’
As for the outside post in the Preakness, Zito said he was satisfied.
“I think it’s fine,’’ he said. “It’s not going to bother him at all. I think if you get over, you know you’re in good shape. Normally, a closer, you like to be inside because you’re already there, but you can get bottled up or whatever. Julien [Leparoux, the jockey] will have a good shot at it.’’
One Preakness jockey switch was made yesterday, with Martin Garcia replacing Victor Espinoza on Midnight Interlude. Espinoza made the quick switch to Mr. Commons . . . Astrology, trained by Steve Asmussen, drew the No. 1 post. Astrology, who has not finished worse than third in seven career starts, was second in his two races this year, the Grade III Sunland Derby and the Grade II Jerome Handicap . . . Most of the Preakness entries arrived at Pimlico yesterday, eight of them coming in two planes from Louisville, Ky.
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at email@example.com.