Updated on 06/11/2011 1:24PM

Belmont Stakes: Animal Kingdom gets post 9, Shackleford in 12

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Debra A. Roma
Shackleford and Animal Kingdom, one-two in the Preakness, are rematched in a field of 12 in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. -- He was 68-1 when nearly pulling off an upset in the Florida Derby, 23-1 when fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and 12-1 when he captured the Preakness Stakes three weeks ago. Shackleford, it seems, is the ultimate outsider. Considering such, he received an appropriate post position for Saturday’s 143rd Belmont Stakes, landing the outside post among the 12 3-year-olds who were entered Wednesday morning in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up, drew post 9. He is the 5-2 favorite on the morning line of Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, while Eric Donovan, the linemaker for Belmont Park, has Animal Kingdom the 2-1 choice.

Both Watchmaker and Donovan have Shackleford as their third choice, behind Derby runner-up Nehro. If that holds, Shackleford will again fail to be favored, which has been the case in all seven of his starts. Though he has now won 3 of 7 starts, and is a classic winner, only once previously has he been shorter than 12-1.

One edge Shackleford apparently has in this Belmont is that he appears to be the controlling speed in the 1 1/2-mile race. He was going to the front regardless, but the outside post, trainer Dale Romans said, might cause Shackleford “to be sent a little more anyway, just to make sure he clears.”

Still, Romans said, “I don’t think post will decide the race.”

“You’ve got a mile and a half to sort it out,” Romans said.


Mike Watchmaker's take on the Belmont Stakes after the draw. More Video »

Graham Motion, the trainer of Animal Kingdom, was happy where his colt drew in relation to Shackleford, who will be nearest the boisterous crowd lining the outside rail near the starting gate. Post 9 was a little farther out than ideal, Motion said, but preferable to some of the alternatives.

“I’d have rather been in 6 or 7,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in 1 or 12.”

While Shackleford will be on the lead, Animal Kingdom, as is his custom, will come from off the pace.

“We’ll know where he’ll be, but he doesn’t know where we’ll be,” Motion said. “It’s going to be a tactical race. There’s no doubt about it.”

Animal Kingdom worked here on Monday, then jogged on a small training track at the far end of the stable area on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, he returned to the main track, and had a schooling session at the starting gate.

“He was good as gold,” Motion said. “I didn’t expect him not to be. It was routine. I’ve seen horses act up before the Belmont because the race starts in front of the stands. It’s an awkward spot. He won’t need to go to the gate again.”

Of the 12 runners, eight ran in the Derby, including the first seven finishers. This marks the first time ever that the top seven finishers in the Derby have competed in the Belmont.

Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal, who had been considering entering two longshots, went with just one, Isn’t He Perfect, while leaving Harlan’s Hello in the barn.

The only equipment change for the Belmont involves Ruler On Ice, who will add blinkers. Every runner will compete on Lasix.

Animal Kingdom, Shackleford, and Mucho Macho Man are the only three horses from this crop who will compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown. According to Romans, Shackleford has thrived with the activity.

“He’s one of the few horses who, the more you give him, the better he gets,” Romans said. “Some maintain the status quo, and some back up.”

This Belmont is the first to feature a meeting between Derby and Preakness winners since 2005, when Afleet Alex, the Preakness winner, returned to win the Belmont. In fact, of the six Belmont meetings between Derby and Preakness winners since 1988, the Preakness winner has prevailed five times.

“I’d love to see these two come down the stretch together,” Motion said. “I think it would justify the results so far, and start a rivalry.

“Shackleford beat us fair and square in the Preakness. I would take great pleasure if we beat him in the Belmont.”

The Belmont has a purse of $1 million, with $600,000 going to the winner. It is the 11th race on a 13-race card that begins at 11:35 a.m. Eastern. Post time for the Belmont is listed as 6:35 p.m. The Belmont is the final leg of pick four and pick six wagers that both have guaranteed pools of $1 million. It is also the second leg of a double wager that begins with the Brooklyn Handicap on Friday.

There are six graded stakes on the Saturday card, four of which – including the Belmont – are Grade 1. Most notable among the supporting stakes is the Manhattan Handicap, for older turf horses, featuring three-time Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti.

The Belmont, along with the Manhattan, will be shown live by NBC-Sports in a two-hour telecast beginning at 5 p.m. The three stakes prior to the Manhattan will be shown live on Versus from 3-5 p.m. Versus also will have a half-hour post-Belmont show, beginning at 7 p.m.

It was oppressively hot and steamy at Belmont Park on Wednesday afternoon, with a high temperature in the mid-90s, and those conditions were forecast to continue into Thursday, but break by the weekend. According to Weather.com, there is a 50-percent chance of showers on Saturday, and the high temperature will be in the low 70s.

BELMONT STAKES: Contender profiles, Watchmaker's odds »

The Belmont field, from the rail out, is:

1. Master of Hounds, Garrett Gomez, 10-1
2. Stay Thirsty, Javier Castellano, 20-1
3. Ruler On Ice, Jose Valdivia Jr., 20-1
4. Santiva, Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1
5. Brilliant Speed, Joel Rosario, 15-1
6. Nehro, Corey Nakatani, 4-1
7. Monzon, Jose Lezcano, 30-1
8. Prime Cut, Edgar Prado, 15-1
9. Animal Kingdom, John Velazquez, 2-1
10. Mucho Macho Man, Ramon Dominguez, 10-1
11. Isn't He Perfect, Rajiv Maragh, 30-1
12. Shackleford, Jesus Castanon, 9-2

ULTIMATE BELMONT STAKES GUIDE: DRF picks, past performances, contender profiles »