Graham Motion is one confident trainer. He's a cautious one, too.
After long-shot Animal Kingdom's surprising win in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, the Englishman knows his colt will be running in the Preakness on Saturday with a bull's-eye on his back as perhaps racing's next superstar.
"I don't want to get into that," he said. "I've tried to make up in my mind I won't get too caught up in the Preakness because you've got two weeks to enjoy winning the Derby."
Animal Kingdom is set to arrive at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Friday, the day before the 13/16-mile Preakness, which is limited to 14 starters. It last drew a full field in 2005.
"It's going to be about staying out of trouble, very much like it was in the Derby," Motion said. "Fourteen horses is a lot of horses to navigate, especially when you're the one they're gunning for. The track is possibly a little tighter, the surface is probably a little different than at Churchill Downs. My horse has shown he can handle the dirt."
Animal Kingdom became the first horse in the Derby's 137 years to win his debut on dirt, having run three times on synthetic surfaces and once on the turf in four previous races.
John Velazquez, who got the ride on the colt the day before the Derby, will stay aboard for the Preakness. The colt had different riders in each of his first five races. "(Velazquez) now knows (Animal Kingdom), and he told me he's never been this relaxed in a race of this magnitude," Motion said.
Dale Romans, who trains fourth-place Derby finisher Shackleford, doesn't think Animal Kingdom's win was a fluke. "He may be the one at the end of the year we're talking about as the super horse," he said.
Plenty of challengers will try to play spoiler in the Preakness, including Nehro and Mucho Macho Man, the second- and third-place Derby finishers, along with Shackleford, Derby favorite Dialed In (eighth) and Bob Baffert-trained Midnight Interlude (16th).
Robby Albarado, set to ride Animal Kingdom in the Derby before breaking his nose in a spill three days before the race, will be aboard King Congie. Also expected in the race: Astrology, Dance City (third in Arkansas Derby), Flashpoint (fourth in Florida Derby) and Gotham runnerup Norman Asbjornson. The field will be set at Wednesday's draw.
136th Preakness Stakes
What: Second race of the Triple Crown
When/where: Saturday; Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
Post time: Expected to be 6:19 p.m. (Ch. 8)
Draw: Wednesday afternoon