05/21/2011 6:37PM

Preakness: Shackleford holds off Animal Kingdom

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Barbara D. Livingston
Shackleford holds off Animal Kingdom to win the 136th Preakness Stakes.

BALTIMORE – Shackleford found the distance of the Kentucky Derby just a bit too far two weeks ago, but the wire came up just in time for him going a shorter distance Saturday in the 136th Preakness Stakes. Shackleford held off Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby winner, to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown on a gorgeous afternoon at Pimlico Race Course.

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Shackleford ($27.20), a 12-1 shot, pressed the early pace of Flashpoint, took the lead at the top of the stretch, and was fully extended under jockey Jesus Castanon to win by a half-length. Animal Kingdom, sent off the 2-1 favorite, finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Astrology.

Dialed In was fourth and was followed, in order, by Dance City, Mucho Macho Man, King Congie, Mr. Commons, Isn’t He Perfect, Concealed Identity, Norman Asbjornson, Sway Away, Midnight Interlude, and Flashpoint.

Shackleford, who finished fourth in the Derby, completed 1 3/16 miles – a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Derby – in 1:56.47 over a track that was rated fast but produced dull times all afternoon.

Flashpoint set fractions of 22.69 seconds for a quarter-mile and 46.87 for a half-mile, then got to the six-furlong mark in 1:12.01 before yielding to Shackleford as one mile was completed in 1:37.22.

The win by Shackleford denied two horses of potential glory.

Animal Kingdom was trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, but that feat will go unclaimed yet again. The current drought is the longest since the Triple Crown was first won by Sir Barton in 1919.

Also, Dialed In was shooting for a $6.1 million payday. He was eligible for a $5.5 million bonus by virtue of having won the Holy Bull Stakes and Florida Derby, both at Gulfstream Park, which, like Pimlico, is owned by the same parent company, MI Developments.

Kim Pratt
Concealed Identity and the rest of the field for the 2011 Preakness breaks from the gate at Pimlico.

The first prize of the Preakness is $600,000, and that, of course, went to Shackleford. In addition, Shackleford got a $550,000 bonus for participating in the Fountain of Youth, in which he finished fifth, and the Florida Derby, in which he was second to Dialed In.

“I’ve won some big races, but none as exciting as that one,” said Dale Romans, the trainer of Shackleford, who was scoring his first win in a Triple Crown race.

Shackleford was extremely wet in the post parade, but Romans later said, “He’s gotten like that in all his races.”

“I was more concerned at the quarter pole that he would hang on,” Romans said.

Romans also won the Dixie Stakes earlier in the day with Paddy O’Prado, the talented turf horse who was making his first start of the year.

Castanon, like Romans, was winning his first Triple Crown race.

“It feels amazing,” Castanon said. “I couldn’t ask for a better run. He was a little warm in the post parade, but he was able to calm down.”

Shackleford, a son of Forestry out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee, was bred and is owned by Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge. He has now won three times in seven starts. His previous wins came against maidens last fall at Churchill Downs and in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream in February.

A full field of 14 went to the post in the Preakness. Animal Kingdom was in front of just one horse, Dialed In, as the field went into the first turn. Animal Kingdom began a sustained rally as the field neared the far turn, but jockey John Velazquez was forced to go around a pack of tiring horses to secure running room. Animal Kingdom made a spirited run through the lane, but came up just short.

“He ran huge,” said Animal Kingdom’s trainer, Graham Motion. “I was hoping we were going to get there. It looked like he needed another sixteenth. He ran a huge race. He came so close.

“I felt really good about where he was when we turned down the backstretch, but when I saw the middle quarter,” Motion said, referring to the split between the half-mile pole and six-furlong mark, “I was worried.”

Velazquez said his horse shied away from the spray of dirt that hit him early in the race.

“The difference today is that in the Derby, he was close, so not much dirt was hitting him, but today he was farther back and it was hitting in the face,” Velazquez said. “In the Derby, it was hitting him in the chest. He had to make up too much ground.”

The announced attendance was 107,398, the sixth largest crowd in Preakness history. The day's overall handle was $76,376,689, the seventh largest all time.