Kentucky Derby champion Animal Kingdom was installed as the 2-1 favorite in the 143rd Belmont Stakes, the third leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
Animal Kingdom, the 3-year-old colt who finished second by a half length in the Preakness Stakes, will leave from the ninth post position with John Velazquez aboard at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, for the June 11 race.
Derby runner-up Nehro, drawing the sixth post position, is the second favorite at 4-1 and Preakness winner Shackleford, a 9-2 third choice in the morning line, is on the outside from the 12th gate.
The Belmont, the longest race in the Triple Crown series at 1 1/2 miles (2.4 kilometers), attracted the top seven finishers in the Derby: Animal Kingdom, Nehro, Mucho Macho Man, Shackleford, Master of Hounds, Santiva and Brilliant Speed. An eighth Belmont horse, Stay Thirsty, also ran in the Derby, finishing 12th.
An Animal Kingdom victory would add the colt’s name to a list of 11 other thoroughbreds who won the Derby and Belmont. The last horse to do it was Thunder Gulch, who missed the 1995 Triple Crown by running third in the Preakness.
Trainer Graham Motion said Animal Kingdom lagged too far behind the front runners in the Preakness, failing to make up enough ground to overtake Shackleford at the finish line.
“He’s never been a quick horse out of the gate,” Motion said during a televised interview. “He took a lot of dirt in the face.”
Animal Kingdom, whose first race on a dirt track was in the Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, last month, has become more accustomed to the footing, Motion said.
Barry Irwin, a spokesman for Animal Kingdom’s ownership group, said the colt might return to the turf in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the richest race in North America. The Classic is set for Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
“He has been bred to be a turf horse,” Irwin said. “We’ll look for the easiest races coming up to the Classic.”
Shackleford set the pace for the Preakness and trainer Dale Romans said he expects his horse to be on the lead again.
“He’s one of the few horses I see improve with every single race,” Romans said.
PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds 1 Master of Hounds Garrett Gomez Aidan O’Brien 10-1 2 Stay Thirsty Javier Castellano Todd Pletcher 20-1 3 Ruler On Ice Jose Valdivia Jr. Kelly Breen 20-1 4 Santiva Shaun Bridgmohan Eddie Kenneally 15-1 5 Brilliant Speed Joel Rosario Tom Albertrani 15-1 6 Nehro Corey Nakatani Steve Asmussen 4-1 7 Monzon Jose Lezcano Ignacio Correas 30-1 8 Prime Cut Edgar Prado Neil Howard 15-1 9 Animal Kingdom John Velazquez Graham Motion 2-1 10 Mucho Macho Man Ramon Dominguez Kathy Ritvo 10-1 11 Isn’t He Perfect Rajiv Maragh D. Shivmangal 30-1 12 Shackleford Jesus Castanon Dale Romans 9-2