BALTIMORE – Things are falling nicely into place for Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
He’s training in the Maryland countryside, he’s been made the early 2-1 favorite for the Preakness Stakes and he drew a decent post for Saturday’s race.
“It’s great. I couldn’t be happier,” trainer Graham Motion said after his colt landed in the No. 11 post on Wednesday.
A full field of 14 is set for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico, located about 60 miles from Fair Hill Training Center, where Animal Kingdom will be until the morning of the race.
It will be the first time since 2005 that 14 horses are set to run in the second leg of the Triple Crown series. That’s five fewer horses than ran in the Derby, where the far outside post was a much bigger concern than it will be in the Preakness.
“I would just rather be on the outside than stuck down on the inside. I was a little worried when 1 and 14 were still left,” Motion said. “It would not have been the end of the world, but I much prefer to be in the middle to the outside, where I am.”
Just two winners since 1926 have come out of the No. 11 post, the last being Point Given trained by Bob Baffert in 2001.
Seventy favorites have won in the previous 135 runnings, including 2009 champion Rachel Alexandra and Big Brown, who was the 1-5 favorite in 2008.
“Now we’re a pretty solid favorite. It feels great,” said Barry Irwin, who represents the 20 people who own Animal Kingdom under the partnership of Team Valor International.
Velazquez is keeping his mount on Animal Kingdom after replacing injured Robby Albarado the day before the Derby. Albarado picked up a Preakness mount with King Congie.
Dialed In, the beaten Derby favorite, is the 9-2 second choice of Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli. The colt drew the No. 10 post. Dialed In finished eighth in the Derby.
“I don’t think it matters with him because of his style of running,” trainer Nick Zito said about Dialed In’s post. “Would I want a 14? Probably not. But 10 will be fine.”
If Dialed In wins the Preakness, he is eligible for a $5.5 million payday in addition to the $600,000 winner’s share. The majority of that would go to owner Robert LaPenta, while Zito would receive $500,000.
The bonus is the result of Dialed In’s earlier victories in the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby. It is offered by MI Developments Inc., which owns Pimlico and Gulfstream.
Mucho Macho Man, third in the Derby for trainer Kathy Ritvo, is the 6-1 third choice and will break from the No. 9 post.
“Don’t know that we could have drawn it up any better, based on the horses that are on the inside of us and the horses that are on the outside of us,” said Dean Reeves, who co-owns Mucho Macho Man. “It works out really well for our horse.”
Ritvo is the 14th female trainer to saddle a Preakness starter. Nancy Alberts, who died recently, recorded the highest finish when Magic Weisner was second in 2002.
Baffert’s colt, Midnight Interlude, drew the No. 7 post and is listed at 15-1. The Santa Anita Derby winner finished 16th in the Derby.
“I love that post,” Baffert said, adding that the odds were fair. “The horse ran 16th last time, so what the hell?”
Last year, Baffert won the Preakness for the fifth time with Lookin At Lucky, who landed in the seventh post. The colt bounced back from a bad post position and trip in the Derby, where he was the favorite and finished sixth.
In a jockey switch, Martin Garcia replaces Victor Espinoza on Midnight Interlude. Espinoza will ride California invader Mr. Commons, who will break from the No. 14 post.
Astrology, trained by Steve Asmussen, drew the No. 1 post. The colt is co-owned by Stonestreet Stables, which owned Rachel Alexandra and was the racing operation of Jess Jackson, who died in April.
Shackleford, the only other Derby runner in the field, is one of two horses at 12-1 odds. The colt was fourth in the Derby.
Nine new horses will take aim at Animal Kingdom, including the longest shots in the field – Concealed Identity, Isn’t He Perfect and Norman Asbjornson – who are all 30-1.