If the 2011 Kentucky Derby taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected with this year's field of three-year-olds. Animal Kingdom held 20/1 odds as the field entered the gates at Churchill Downs, but shot down the stretch to cross the finish line first and take home the garland of roses. On Saturday at Pimlico, Animal Kingdom will attempt to add the second jewel of the Triple Crown to his cap at the 2011 Preakness Stakes, but a full field of contenders is ready to knock him off.
We know the field, post positions and odds and all that's left is to try and make a few picks and predictions. Here are a few horses to keep an eye on at Pimlico on Saturday afternoon.
Animal Kingdom (2/1): Clearly he belongs after the Kentucky Derby upset, but can Animal Kingdom win the Preakness or, setting loftier goals, the Triple Crown. At Churchill Downs, the pace was slow, allowing Animal Kingdom to store up enough energy for a powerful finishing burst that left the rest of the field in the dust. With a host of new shooters, the pace should be faster at Pimlico, so we have to wonder how Animal Kingdom will hold up.
Dialed In (4/1): In many ways, the Preakness Stakes is a more important race for Dialed In and his owners. While the Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious American horse race, a win at Pimlico on Saturday nets Dialed In a $5.5 million track bonus. Could his trainers have been holding back a bit in hopes of taking the record prize? We do know Dialed In is much better than he showed at Churchill Downs.
Mucho Macho Man (9/2): He has to be considered at Pimlico after a strong finish in the Kentucky Derby. A late push netted Mucho Macho Man a third-place finish at Churchill Downs, but like Animal Kingdom, it may have been the result of the incredibly slow pace. Even still, he's looked strong and should be in contention as the field hits the home-stretch in the Preakness Stakes.
Dance City (15/1): As one of the aforementioned new shooters, Dance City has a chance to play spoiler and sneak up on the Derby holdovers. For some reason, I like this horse. It may have to do with his finish in the Arkansas Derby or it could be that Dance City just seems like a horse that will challenge. Call it a hunch that will probably be wrong.
Shackleford (12/1): At the Kentucky Derby, Shackleford set a slow pace and nearly went wire-to-wire before being caught down the stretch and fading to a fourth-place finish. It's likely Shackleford will again try to set the pace, but may be destined for the same result.
I get the feeling this will come down to Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man and Dialed In, with Dance City as a bit of a darkhorse. If I'm looking at it with my heart, it's all about Animal Kingdom. This time of year is more fun with a Triple Crown threat and if Animal Kingdom can make it to the Belmont alive, he may have a good shot of finally giving us another winner. But it won't be easy.
Look for Dialed In to run much better and for Mucho Macho Man to be right there again. Those three seem like the obvious win/place/show combination, but if we've learned anything it's to expect a horse to come out of nowhere down the stretch. How will it turn out? We'll find out for sure at post time on Saturday at 3:19 p.m. PDT.
Stay with our Preakness Stakes StoryStream for more on the race as it becomes available. For all your horse racing needs, head over to And Down The Stretch They Come. Check out SB Nation's 2011 Preakness Stakes StoryStream for updates throughout the week.