Horses

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom 2-1 favorite in Preakness

BALTIMORE — Graham Motion's phone goes barely 15 minutes without ringing. His sleep schedule has become more sporadic, and his worrywart nature has been kicked into high gear.

It's only a small part of how life has changed for the soft-spoken trainer now that he has the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness Stakes morning-line favorite residing in his barn.

Eleven days after he was dismissed as a 20-1 shot in the Derby, Animal Kingdom's transformation into Thoroughbred racing's "It" horse continued Wednesday when he was installed as the 2-1 choice for Saturday's Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

A full field of 14 was entered for the Preakness with Animal Kingdom drawing post position No. 11, just outside of Florida Derby winner and 9-2 second choice Dialed In.

Motion admittedly stresses over even the smallest detail, but the attitude Animal Kingdom has displayed since his 23/4-length victory in the Kentucky Derby has even the conservative trainer feeling confident.

And the Team Valor homebred's outside post means he won't get crammed against the rail.

"I couldn't be happier, really. I would rather be on the outside than stuck on the inside," Motion said of the draw. "I was worried when the 1 and the 14 were left. I've started from the 14 before, and you're almost on the outside rail. It's a tough spot.

"I'm pleasantly surprised with how he's handled this. He really has seemed to come out of (the Derby) very well. I'm just trying to stay out of his way."

Animal Kingdom was able to close in the Kentucky Derby despite having to overcome some of the slowest fractions in the race's history.

Getting a half-mile in 48.63 seems unlikely to happen again in the Preakness because Shackleford, Dance City and Flashpoint all appear able to contest the early pace.

If Animal Kingdom can get the kind of trouble-free trip he enjoyed in the Derby, Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin said, there is no reason his chestnut colt shouldn't duplicate his stunning outing from nearly two weeks ago.

"He's the horse to beat. If he doesn't have a lot of trouble in the race, he's going to win the race," Irwin said. "It (the Preakness) is something that is a hurdle we want to clear and get behind us. This horse has done super and, looking at him physically, the Derby did not take much out of him."

Count trainer Nick Zito as another one who says added pace and an incident-free trip strongly point to his horse ending up in the winner's circle.

Dialed In — who is eligible for a $5.5 million bonus thanks to earlier victories in the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park — is a confirmed closer and finished eighth as the favorite in the Derby after the slow fractions.

"It's the greatest eighth-place finish you'll ever see," Zito joked. "I think it has to be a fair pace (on Saturday). I doubt very much they're going to go that slow again. He'll have his chance provided he doesn't get in trouble or anything like that."

Mucho Macho Man, third in the Kentucky Derby, drew post No. 9 and was made the 6-1 third choice in the morning line. Shackleford, fourth in the Derby after setting the pace, will break from post position No. 5.

The Steve Asmussen-trained Astrology arguably got the worst of it Wednesday when he drew the rail.

Bob Baffert, meanwhile, is looking for a little repeat luck as his charge Midnight Interlude drew post No. 7 — the same post Baffert's Lookin At Lucky broke from last year en route to his Preakness Stakes wins.

"Things are looking up; No. 7 is a good post," Baffert said. "I think we should have been closer up in the Derby, and I think we'll be there here."

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