When long shots such as Animal Kingdom win the Kentucky Derby, they are frequently viewed with skepticism in the Preakness — and for good reason. The congested fields and sometimes suicidal early pace at Churchill Downs can produce fluky results.
Last year Super Saver won the Derby with a perfect, ground-saving trip while some of his main rivals encountered serious traffic trouble. He finished eighth in the Preakness and never won another race. Giacomo rallied to win the 2005 Derby after the pacesetters ran a half mile in a suicidal 45.38 seconds and all of them collapsed. He came to Baltimore and lost by nearly 10 lengths. Monarchos similarly got a perfect fast-pace setup when the won the Derby in 2001 and then finished sixth at Pimlico.
It would be natural to suspect that Animal Kingdom’s victory might be another Kentucky Derby aberration. He had never won a significant stakes race, nor had he ever competed on dirt, before he pulled his 20-to-1 upset. Yet an examination of the race indicates that his performance was legitimate.