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Animal Kingdom and Shackleford Top 2011 Belmont Stakes Odds

After the first two rounds of Triple Crown competition, the tally is one win for Kentucky Derby winner ANIMAL KINGDOM and one for Preakness winner SHACKLEFORD. (AP Images)"]

So it is time to settle the score. It’s time to find out which horse is better---Animal Kingdom or Shackleford---or whether one of the other 10 horses who have been entered in the Belmont Stakes today, can push them both, or defeat them.

Today, at the demanding 1-1/2 mile distance, the stars of this year’s Triple Crown series will settle their private rivalry or find themselves wanting after running two enterprising races in the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby and the 1-3/16 mile Preakness. But, as stated above, there are several 3 year olds in this Belmont who will have plenty to say about the outcome. Should any of them win, the 3 year old division will need more races down the road to shake out the proper pecking order.

After the Triple Crown, comes the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga and even the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall when the best of the 3 year olds will face the best older horses in training, including some from Europe and Asia.

Get your Belmont Stakes odds before the big race now!

Indeed, there are no fewer than six other horses who raced in the Derby who are back for the climactic rematch.These include somewhat forgotten NEHRO, who finished a respectable second at Churchill Downs, May 7. We also have MUCHO MACHO MAN who was third that day and will join the Derby and Preakness winners as the only other horse to compete in all three races this year.

Beyond the above top four finishers in the Derby, we have three other horses who finished noses apart in fifth, sixth and seventh place. Each of these are serious upset threats having the proper long distance breeding and overall talent to launch their respective bids.

Fifth place finisher MASTER OF HOUNDS, certainly made a positive impression weaving between horses in the Derby while rallying for his finishing position in his first start on a dirt track after doing well on grass and synthetic surfaces in Europe and Dubai. That he is back for more after traveling back and forth to Ireland suggests thatv his connections have high hopes.

A similar view can be taken with respect to sixth place finisher SANTIVA, who had won a Graded stakes as a 2 year old last year and is proven on dirt and at distances beyond a mile. So far this year, he has had no real xdhance to show what he can do.

Seventh place finisher BRILLIANT SPEED also rallied well in the 19 horse Derby field and is so lightly raced and so well bred for the Belmont distance that an argument can be made on his behalf as well.

If you’re counting, that’s the first seven finishers in the Kentucky Derby that are back for this “Test of the Champion,” an historic race that was first run in 1867.

I also would not be dismissive of a few others in the field, most notably RULER ON ICE, who has some natural speed and was finishing fastest of all in the 1-1/8 mile Sunland Park Derby in March and then showed similar form when second in the Frederico Tesio at Pimlico on May 7.

There is some quality there and considerable promise for the future. Those who choose to bet him Saturday are merely saying they think that his future is now!

Also, PRIME CUT, a colt who has not run a bad race in four tries at one mile or longer is another deserving a closer look. He, among all the horses in the field, probably has enough early speed to push Shackleford out of his comfort zone and if he does go for the lead, the nature of this Belmont will change dramatically.

At the bottom line, the rubber match at Belmont Park today has everything you could possibly want in a horse race. It has a speed horse in Shackleford who will try to control the pace as long as he can and it has a stretch runner in Animal Kingdom, patented rally will have everybody looking to the rear of the pack to see if he uncorks his eye catching run.

Some of the other horses we mentioned could light up the tote board. Yes, the end of the Triple Crown season is upon us; It is time to settle the score and time to make one as well.