|Animal Kingdom (centre), with jockey John Velazquez in the irons, wins the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, May 7, 2011. (JEFF HAYNES/Reuters)
PHILADELPHIA - Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will take the long van ride from Louisville to Maryland on Tuesday morning as he and his connections prepare for the 136th Preakness Stakes. The middle jewel in racing's Triple Crown will go off at Pimlico Racecourse on Saturday, May 21.
"Two days later, it is still surreal," said winning trainer Graham Motion, who is based at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, MD. "I had thought about it (winning the Kentucky Derby). There is not a trainer that doesn't think about it. I just didn't think it would happen at this stage of my career."
The van ride to Fair Hill will take between 11 and 12 hours. The colt and his party will leave Louisville Tuesday morning around 6 a.m. (et). Animal Kingdom will be stabled at the training center then ship to Pimlico a day or two before the race.
"I have a lot of confidence in this horse. He's the whole package," Motion noted. "I guess, to use a term that's probably overused. He's got a tremendous disposition and is just a really brilliant horse."
The win by Animal Kingdom gave Motion, jockey John Velazquez and owner Team Valor each their first Run for the Roses victory.
"I know everybody wants me to say my whole life was changed, but I feel exactly the same. My major comment would be, I'm just happy to own a horse this good. That's what means something to me," said Team Valor president Barry Irwin. "I'm not doing this just to make a whole lot of money. It is so tough to make money in the horse business it's not even funny. I'm doing it because it's in my blood and I love it. It's all I've ever done.
"We've made some history, and I like making history. It means something to me. I started writing a book once, and I guess I'm going to have to write the damn book now."
While Animal Kingdom is almost certain to start in the Preakness Stakes, second-place finisher Nehro is doubtful for the 1 3/16-mile race. The Derby was the third straight race the colt was the runner-up.
"It's more probable we'd aim for the Belmont," said Nehro's owner Ahmed Zayat, "but I guess we are still possible for the Preakness."
Expected to take another shot at Animal Kingdom is Shackleford, the Derby pacesetter who finished fourth in the 19-horse field.
"He came out of the race fine, but I'm worn out," said Shackleford's trainer Dale Romans. "He will go back to the track Wednesday and leave for Baltimore the following Tuesday."
Romans finished second in the Preakness last year behind Lookin At Lucky with First Dude.
Dialed In, the 5-1 Derby favorite, has the chance to pick up $5.5 million in bonus money should he win the Preakness. Although he finished eighth in the Run for the Roses. Dialed In is the only three-year-old eligible for the Preakness 5.5 bonus.
The colt won the Holy Bull Stakes and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, and can claim the bonus by taking the Preakness. Owner Robert LaPenta would receive $5 million and trainer Nick Zito $500,000.
"He's doing well," Zito said. "He's eating good and came out of the race well."
Zito won the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze who finished 16th in that year's Kentucky Derby.
A full field of 14 is expected to start in this year's Preakness Stakes.