Prior to the Kentucky Derby, most horse racing handicappers and experts looked at Animal Kingdom as little more than a turf horse. He had never run on dirt, and his bloodlines seemed to imply he'd be far more comfortable on grass. He had very little racing experience, and in the four races he had run, he had four different jockeys.
Animal Kingdom was certainly pretty to look at, but to most people, he didn't feel like a Derby winner. Even the partnership that owns him had doubts the Run for the Roses was the right race for him. Prior to the first Saturday in May, anyone calling him a legitimate Triple Crown contender would have been laughed at.
A relatively easy victory in the sport's signature race, however, has a way of prompting reassessment. Animal Kingdom will likely go to the gate at Pimlico Race Course Saturday as the favorite to win the Preakness Stakes. Instead of talking about how surprising it was to watch a 21-1 long shot win the Derby, people are now buzzing about just how effortless he made it look. His inexperience is being viewed as a bonus, because at least in theory, he's expended less effort to get here than any Triple Crown contender in years.