If you are reading this then you, like me, survived the end of the world talk. So, we have that going for us. What we don't have going for us is a Triple Crown possibility in next month's Belmont Stakes. Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom was valiant in defeat, coming from far back and weaving through traffic before coming up just short in the Preakness stretch to 12-1 shot, Shackleford. It was an exciting race, and an excellent effort by the race favorite, but I must give credit where credit is due. Shackleford was the best horse yesterday and deserved to be the winner.
After going fast to get good early position just behind and to the outside of the early leader, Flashpoint, Shackleford enjoyed the slowing down of the pace from there. As he took over the lead on the far turn, the son of Forestry needed to first hold of the challenge from Astrology on the rail, before the Derby winner made his menacing move on the outside. Animal Kingdom kept coming, but Shackleford proved strong and game, as he held off the Derby winner by a half-length to win racing's Middle Jewel.
Now we have two lightly raced horses, who both ran well in the Derby and the Preakness. On to the Belmont! I hope.
I hate to be a Donald Downer here, but I am a little cautious in my enthusiasm to see the Derby winner face off against the Preakness victor in a Belmont Stakes rubber match. Despite both trainers saying the right things and sounding pretty confident about running in the Belmont, I have my doubts. Without the Triple Crown on the line, connections have been reticent of late to bring their charges back in all three legs. If both horses do run it will be good for the Belmont, and great for the sport. We shall see.
In other news …
I am now officially excited about 2011 turf racing.
First my favorite grass horse of all American runners, Paddy O'Prado, came back yesterday to easily and impressively dominate an over matched bunch in the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes. It was an excellent season debut for the horse I thought was the best turf horse in the country last year as a three-year-old. Unfortunately, Paddy O'Prado came back from the race a little off in one leg, but early reports sound very promising that there is no real damage to the talented grey colt.
Across the pond, the one, the only, the incomparable Goldikova is set to make her 2011 debut today in the Prix d'Ispahan. The turf is a little soft, and the distance is a little long today, so the great mare may have her work cut out for her against such top colts as Byword and Dick Turpin, but how can you ever doubt her. Welcome back Goldikova!