Derby winner Animal Kingdom favorite for Belmont

Posted June 08, 2011, at 9:10 p.m.
Last modified June 08, 2011, at 10:14 p.m.

NEW YORK — The 1-2 finishers in the Kentucky Derby are 1-2 on the morning line for the Belmont Stakes.

Derby winner Animal Kingdom was made the 2-1 favorite for Saturday’s final leg of the Triple Crown, with Derby runner-up Nehro the second choice at 4-1.

Preakness winner Shackleford was next at 9-2 when a field of 12 was entered Wednesday for the first rubber match between a Derby winner and Preakness winner since 2005.

Animal Kingdom, with John Velazquez riding, leaves from the No. 9 post, which has produced only four Belmont winners since 1905. The colt trained by Graham Motion is attempting to become the 12th to complete a Derby-Belmont sweep. The last to succeed was Thunder Gulch in 1995.

“It doesn’t change anything for us,” Motion said of the post position. “I don’t think it’s going to take him out of his game.”

Shackleford, with jockey Jesus Castanon aboard, will try to become the first Belmont winner out of the No. 12 post. The colt trained by Dale Romans also is attempting to become the 22nd Preakness-Belmont winner.

While Motion says Shackleford may have to work harder early in the race to get an inside position, Romans isn’t buying it.

“In a mile-and-a-half race, the post position isn’t that important,” Romans said. “With No. 12, he’ll be the last one in and the first one out. Hopefully, he’ll be able to clear the field.”

Nehro, with Corey Nakatani riding, has finished second in his last three starts. The colt drew the No. 6 post.

“Nehro is very versatile, so he can be anywhere,” said Brad Weisbord, racing manager for Nehro’s owner Ahmed Zayat.

The Belmont is the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races, and post position usually isn’t considered as vital as in the Derby and Preakness. Motion, though, believes it can be significant.

“It’s not a very long run to the first turn, so I do think it’s important,” he said. “I’m glad I’m not hung out there (like Shackleford).”

For the first time, the first seven finishers from the Derby will be running in the Belmont.

The field, from the rail out, is Master of Hounds (10-1), Stay Thirsty (20-1), Ruler On Ice (20-1), Santiva (15-10), Brilliant Speed (15-1), Nehro (4-1), Monzon (30-1), Prime Cut (15-1), Animal Kingdom (2-1), Mucho Macho Man (10-1), Isn’t He Perfect (30-1) and Shackleford (9-2).

 

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