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Shackleford edges Animal Kingdom to win the Preakness Stakes

The wire-to-wire winner has enough at the finish to hold off the Kentucky Derby champion. Astrology finishes third with Dialed In taking fourth.

May 21, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Preakness Stakes 2011: Shackleford edges Animal Kingdom to win the Preakness Stakes
  • Jockey Jesus Castanon keeps Shackleford in the lead ahead of Mike Smith and Astrology in the homestretch of the 136th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
Jockey Jesus Castanon keeps Shackleford in the lead ahead of Mike Smith… (Richard Mackson / US Presswire )

BALTIMORE -- Shackleford's clean run allowed him to hold off a late charge from Animal Kingdom to win the 136th running of the Preakness Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

Shackleford, trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Jesus Castanon, led most of the Kentucky Derby but was caught by a group that included Animal Kingdom and finished fourth. Many expected him to jump to an early lead but fade at the Preakness. He thrived running the shorter distance, though, and the early 12-1 shot won by about half a length. He paid 27.20 to win.

"The Derby was a slow pace, but I'm a firm believer that when the pace is slow you keep the closers in it," said Romans, who is based at Churchill Downs. "So maybe by pushing the pace today we kept them out of it."

Shackleford appeared antsy early on, bucking several times as he came out, and Romans was concerned at first.

"We had a good 10 minutes to stand in the paddock with the pony," he said. "The pony kind of acted like a pacifier. So I felt good after that."

Near the lead most of the way, Shackleford was held back by Castanon before charging into the final turn.

"When I got to the top of the stretch, I knew I still had some horse," he said. "When I asked him to pick it up, I felt him get bigger and he did it. It was just emotional."

For Shackleford co-owner Michael Lauffer, the win was especially gratifying. Two years ago, he sold a share of Rachel Alexandra before she went on to become the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years.

"[Rachel Alexandra] was a special horse who comes along once in a lifetime," Lauffer said. "I'm probably a little closer to Shackleford. We've ran him and raced him and I've been with him for three years now. We've all stuck together with this horse. We've had a bad race or two, but we stuck with our team and it paid off."

Astrology, who is co-owned by Baltimore County native George Bolton, finished third.

A large crowd — 107,398, the sixth largest in Preakness history — turned out to see if Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby winner, could keep the dream of the first Triple Crown in 33 years alive, and also in support of Maryland trainer Graham Motion, whose operation is based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton. The total handle was $76,376,689, down about $3 million from 2010, but the seventh largest in Preakness history.

But Animal Kingdom broke slowly and was second to last as the horses separated. Jockey John Velazquez guided him to the front and urged him on down the stretch, but Animal Kingdom could not complete the run.

Motion praised his horse.

"He ran huge. It's tough to come that close, but he ran a huge race. I kind of thought for an instant that he might get there, but I wasn't sure," Motion said. "It's kind of ironic because Dale led me down to the winner's circle after the Derby. They ran quick early. That was fine. I think they just slowed it down in the middle of the race and that really helped the horse."

Velazquez said Animal Kingdom was affected by being stuck in a pack of horses.

"We were just too far back. When I wanted him to go, he got dirt kicked in his face. So then I had to pull him farther back than I wanted him to be," Velazquez said. "By the time I had the chance to go, he was coming, but it was too late.

"He came out of the race great. Unfortunately this is part of the business."

Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 11 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Animal Kingdom, who is owned by Team Valor, was vying to become the 12th. Dialed In, too, tried to come from off the pace but was slowed by a bump and could never catch up.

Dialed In, with a victory, would have netted a $5.5 million bonus, thanks to earlier victories this year in the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. MI Developments, parent company of Pimlico and Gulfstream, put up the bonus, and when combined with the $600,000 awarded to the Preakness winner, it would have set a North American record for single race earnings, eclipsing the $5.884 million earned by Smarty Jones in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Bob Baffert was vying to win his sixth Preakness with Midnight Interlude, which would have set a record for trainers in the modern era.

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