05/10/2011 11:43AM

Preakness: Animal Kingdom's odds at Pimlico tough to figure

Barbara D. Livingston
Animal Kingdom walks the shed row on Sunday at Churchill Downs, a day after his victory in the Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – When favorites win the Kentucky Derby, they invariably become even bigger favorites two weeks later in the Preakness. Recent Derby-winning favorites such as Fusaichi Pegasus, Smarty Jones, and Big Brown all became odds-on choices at Pimlico on the heels of unsurprising victories at Churchill Downs.

But when a longshot such as Charismatic (30-1), Giacomo (50-1), or Mine That Bird (50-1) wins the Derby, racing fans are not nearly as quick to jump on the bandwagon. None of those horses were favored in Baltimore, and as the 136th Preakness approaches, it should be interesting to see how much credence fans give the 20-1 Derby victory by Animal Kingdom and how that is reflected on the Pimlico toteboard.

“We’ve still got a ways to go to see how the field shakes out,” longtime Pimlico linemaker Frank Carulli said. “But with the likelihood of a full gate and a bunch of new shooters, trying to make sense of it all could take some work.”

It probably would be unfair to say that the relatively high number of would-be challengers – as of Tuesday, the prospective field for the May 21 race was at least the limit of 14 starters – translates to a tangible skepticism of what Animal Kingdom accomplished in his 2 3/4-length triumph Saturday at Churchill for Team Valor International. Regardless of the Derby results, the connections of quite a few horses that missed the Derby already had said they wanted to run at Pimlico.

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All such discussion is largely irrelevant to Graham Motion, who left Louisville with his wife and two children Monday to return to their residence in northeastern Maryland, where late Tuesday afternoon Animal Kingdom was expected back at the Fair Hill training center following the long van ride from Louisville. The colt departed his Barn 22 headquarters at Churchill at 5:15 a.m. Eastern and was scheduled to arrive 11 to 12 hours later.

“My main focus over these next 10 days or so is to determine how well this horse bounces back,” Motion said Monday morning while still at Churchill. “Nothing else is of great concern to me. You normally wouldn’t run a horse back this quick, especially after running the race of his life. But we do have a fresh horse, and that could be an advantage. We’ll watch him closely and see how he does.”

Motion has said he won’t send Animal Kingdom on the short trip from Fair Hill to Pimlico “until late in the week, maybe even the day before the race.”

Only five or six of the horses Animal Kingdom defeated in the Derby will be returning in the $1 million Preakness, foremost among them Dialed In, whose connections stand to earn an additional $5.5 million by virtue of the new bonus being offered by MI Developments, the parent company of Pimlico. Other Derby runners under serious consideration are Mucho Macho Man (third), Shackleford (fourth), Santiva (sixth), and Midnight Interlude (16th), while Steve Asmussen, trainer of runner-up Nehro, has said the colt is “possible, but not probable” to run.

Dialed In, eighth as the 5-1 favorite in the Derby, was scheduled to return to light training Wednesday at Churchill and is booked on a May 18 charter flight that will transport a load of horses running at Pimlico on Preakness Day.

Others on the prospective Preakness list are Astrology, Concealed Identity, Dance City, Flashpoint, King Congie, Mr. Commons, Norman Asbjornson, and Sway Away.

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Pimlico reported Monday that Harlan’s Hello and Isn’t He Perfect, two would-be longshots trained by Doodnauth Shivmangal in New York, are being considered for the race.

In case the Preakness overfills, the criteria determining eligibility is as follows: first seven starters, graded earnings; next four starters, non-restricted stakes earnings; last three starters, total earnings. Entries for the 1 3/16-mile race will be drawn May 18 under the traditional pill-pull method.

Meanwhile, at Churchill on Tuesday morning, two well-regarded 3-year-olds posted five-furlong workouts, although neither is headed to the Preakness. The Factor went in a minute flat and will make his next start in the Woody Stephens on the June 11 Belmont Stakes undercard, according to co-owner George Bolton, while Prime Cut went in 1:01.20 and will run Saturday in the Peter Pan at Belmont, trainer Neil Howard said.