The 2011 race for the Triple Crown will be renewed this weekend in Saturday's Preakness Stakes.  The grade one race at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course features five entries from the Kentucky Derby, including Derby winner Animal Kingdom.  He'll look to beat thirteen other horses to the wire Saturday, and take the second jewel of the Triple Crown. I offer you these thoughts:

The Preakness field doesn't seem as wide open as the Derby field that yielded 20-1 long-shot Animal Kingdom as the winner.  To me, this race will come down to Dialed In, rounding back into form off an awful race at Churchill, Mucho Macho Man, who will make his closing move sooner, and Animal Kingdom, who will look to run roughly the same race he did in the Derby.  This is how I see it all breaking down:

The Preakness will start much like the Derby.  Shackleford, with jockey Jesus Castanon, will jump to the early lead.  Shackleford was the front runner for much of the Derby, and with a sixteenth of a mile less to run, I think he'll  try to run the exact same race.  He'll be flanked on the early lead by Astrology, Flashpoint and Dance City.  Of those four, I only see Shackleford and Dance City as horses that could threaten to finish in the money.  Those are the only two to finish within the top three of a grade one stakes.

Behind those top four, in what I imagine will be a moderate pace, will be King Congie, Midnight Interlude, Mucho Macho Man, Dialed In and Mr. Commons.  Dialed In turned in an awful performance in the Derby and he looked bothered trying to come from the back of the pack.  I look for Julien Leparoux to try and position his horse a little closer to the lead this time around.  I expect a familiar run from Mucho Macho Man, who came with a furious charge but ran out of race track in the Run for the Roses.  Look for him to start his late run a little sooner and from a little closer to the front in this, the shortest Triple Crown race.

At the top of the stretch I see Shackleford, Flashpoint, Dance City and Midnight Interlude to be at the front, with Midnight Interlude taking the lead from Shackleford.  This may seem a little crazy based on Midnight Interlude's run in the Derby...which was horrific.  But look, it's horse racing, sometimes a horse just doesn't have it, and two weeks ago he didn't.  I look for this horse to rally and show a strong run in the Preakness.  He won't hold the lead for long however, as Mucho Macho Man, Dialed In and Animal Kingdom will each strike the lead just inside the stretch.  They'll battle down the stretch, in what I believe to be a much closer race than the Derby.  In the end however, I see Animal Kingdom hitting the wire first, edging out Mucho Macho Man by less then a length, followed by Dialed In. King Congie and Midnight Interlude will sit a few lengths back and I see Interlude holding off Congie for fourth.  In the end: 11-9-10-7

Mucho Macho Man's impressive size and late strength will be heard from in this race, as will the formidable talent of Dialed In.  But I was so impressed with Animal Kingdom's run in the Derby.  This was a horse who had never raced on dirt and never run a grade one stakes before dusting the field in the Kentucky Derby.  I think (I really hope) that this is just a special animal whom, when pointed in the right direction, can plain out-run the competition.  I mean, this is a horse who in five starts has two places and three wins.  I look for him to take the black-eyed Susans.

If you're looking for a long shot bet I think I'd look at Midnight Interlude and King Congie.  Both are good horses who won't get too much buzz pre-race, with King Congie not having run on dirt in his last four races and Midnight Interlude coming off a disastrous Derby run. I may also look toward Mr. Commons, who could come out of no where to figure into the race.  In the end my bets would be a box of Animal Kingdom, Mucho Macho Man and Dialed in; a box of Animal Kingdom and Midnight Interlude, and a bet across the board on either Mr. Commons or King Congie (preferably King Congie but depending on the odds).

Either way, it figures to be an interesting and I think very competitive race this Saturday at Pimlico.  I'll be pulling all the way for Animal Kingdom to get it done and take us to Belmont looking for the ever-illusive Triple Crown.