Triple Crown Rubber Match - Animal Kingdom vs Shackleford

Unless jockey J.L. Castanon makes a premature move on Preakness winner Shackleford, the front-running Dale Romans trainee appears to be close to a lock to take down Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in the rubber match between the two classic winners…not that I’m going to not use the Derby winner in my exotic wagers.

Yes, the Belmont Stakes is at a much further distance than both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.  At 1 ½ miles, a horse has to have a good bottom, meaning that the horse has to have stamina in order to get the distance, but a horse also has to have cruising speed and there just isn’t another animal in the race that has it outside of Shackleford.  Post-positions were drawn this morning and glass empty Shackleford fans, no doubt, will be decrying the fact that Shackleford ended up in post-position 12.  I don’t believe it’s going to matter all that much.  Before getting into why, I’ve listed the post-position and odds for the 12 runners for this Saturday’s big race.

  1. Master of Hounds              10-1
  2. Stay Thirsty                        20-1
  3. Ruler on Ice                       20-1
  4. Santiva                               15-1
  5. Brilliant Speed                   15-1
  6. Nehro                                 4-1
  7. Monzon                              30-1
  8. Prime Cut                          15-1
  9. Animal Kingdom               2-1
  10. Mucho Macho Man          10-1
  11. Isn't He Perfect                30-1
  12. Shackleford                      9-2

I loved Animal Kingdom in the Preakness Stakes because I believed that jockey John Velasquez would push the button on the animal early on in the race.  He didn’t and, so, the Derby winner couldn’t quite get to Shackleford.  It’s going to be tougher for Velasquez to get to Shackleford in the Belmont Stakes for the simple reason that there just isn’t any other speed in the race.

Shackleford figures to get an ultra-easy lead and should be able to coast along to a much kinder half than the :46 and 4 he produced in the Preakness.  Prime Cut, who finished third in the Peter Pan, the main prep for the Belmont Stakes, might be close enough to challenge Shackleford early, but Edgar Prado would have to really push on the pedal to do it.  Mucho Macho Man, the hot horse now that Animal Kingdom’s owner, Barry Irwin, said that he was “afraid of him” and not “afraid of Shackleford”, just doesn’t have the early speed to keep up with the Roman’s trainee.

It all adds up to Shackelford getting an easy lead and then cruising to a Belmont Stakes victory ala D’Tara in 2008.  But here’s another reason to love Shackleford in the Test of Champions:  the horse is bred to run all day.  Being sired by Forestry, a Storm Cat colt, and out of an Unbridled dam, Oatsee, Shackleford has the stamina to go along with his speed.

Sure, almost every contender in the Belmont Stakes this Saturday is bred to get the distance but only one is bred to get the distance and has the requisite early speed in order to garner an easy lead.  That horse is Shackleford.  I’m not going to get all jumpy and talk myself off of what I see as a clear-cut horse to back to win the Belmont Stakes.

I’m going to bet on Shackleford to win, key him in an exacta with Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man, Nehro and Prime Cut, reverse the exacta, and bet the following trifecta:

Shackleford, Animal Kingdom with Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Nehro, Prime Cut with Shackleford, Animal Kingdom, Nehro, Prime Cut, Master of Hounds.

Good luck!