Triple Crown Race Winners Preparing for 2012

Welcome to the Thoroughbred Racing Dudes!  Before I get started with our first blog on last years triple crown race winners, let me just say that I’m glad you are here.  My friends and I have created this site, and in the coming weeks we’ll have much more content for you.  You can expect this blog to be updated on a daily basis as we will discuss all topics horse racing related.  If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to leave them.  We hope to have some great discussions and debates on this blog!  Also, in the coming weeks look for us on twitter, Facebook, and on iTunes as we plan on launching a weekly podcast.  We’ll have more information on the podcast soon!  Anyway, on to the blog…

If things break just right and everybody sticks to their current plans, all three reigning Triple Crown race winners could wind up making their 4-year-old debuts at Gulfstream Park on February 11th.  Ruler On Ice and Shackleford are both being pointed towards the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, while Animal Kingdom is being pointed towards the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on the same day.  In racing these days, it’s a rarity that all three of these horses are coming back for their 4-year-old campaigns.  On one hand it is extremely exciting to see these horses come back, but on the other hand it shows us that none of them had exceptional seasons last year.  Just how good are these three, and can they make an impact on the 2012 Handicap division?  Lets take a look at the three:

-Animal Kingdom – There is no doubt his Kentucky Derby win was extremely impressive, but what else has he done?  Leading up to the Derby he was solid, but lets face it, he didn’t beat much in those races.  The majority of people like to think his Preakness effort was amazing, but I totally disagree.  I’ve heard countless people talk about “how far back he was” in the race, but in reality he was well within striking distance.  While Shackleford ran his heart out that day and deserved the victory, I have to think a “great” horse would have gotten by him.  In the Belmont I believe he DID have a legit excuse, so I will give him a pass on that one.  All things point to a horse that will be a bit overrated and over bet once he returns to the races.  There is one thing that separates him from most other horses and that is versatility.  Animal Kingdom can run on any surface, and you can place him at anywhere you want during the race.  That is a quality that is very rare in racing this day and age.  So will Animal Kingdom be a factor in 2012?  You bet he will, but don’t set your expectations too high.  He still has a lot of proving to do.

-Shackleford – When it comes to heart, effort, soundness, and toughness, Shackleford is the leader.  He “danced every dance in 2011” as trainer Dale Romans likes to say.  He ran in all three triple crown races, plus the Haskell, Travers, Indiana Derby, and Breeders Cup Mile AFTER the Triple Crown.  That’s a campaign that would drive most horses to an early grave, but this beautiful chestnut colt was able to handle it fine, and is ready for more this year!  While I do love this horse, I do think he’s a little short on talent and lacks the stamina to win at the classic distance, 10 furlongs.  I think they’ll try him going long a few times this year, but in the end I think his biggest impact will come at a mile or shorter.  A race like the Met Mile at Belmont is where I see him headed towards in 2012.

-Ruler On Ice – There are plenty of things to like about Ruler On Ice, but like the others there are plenty of things to dislike.  From a betting standpoint, he’s a horse you like because it seems like he is always being overlooked by the betting public.  You also have to like the fact that he can run all day long.  His two best efforts of the season where in races at 10 furlongs or longer.  With that said, he’s lacking in the speed department and doesn’t have a strong closing kick.  Ruler on Ice is a lot like 2011 Breeders Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer.  He has a “grind it out” style, and if he’s going long, he’ll pass a lot of horses simply because he loves the distance and the others may not.  We can expect to see him in all the classic distance races this year, but does he possess the qualities it takes to win one or two of them?  Probably so, but as with Animal Kingdom, don’t set your expectations too high.

It’s great having these three champions back, but as you can see I think they all are flawed somewhat.  The 2011 3 year olds all had their problems.  Caleb’s Posse and Uncle Mo were best at a mile.  Stay Thirsty could only run in New York.  Coil was extremely inconsistent.  Prayer For Relief wasn’t good enough to compete at the top-level.  The list goes on and on!  Remember the parity that we saw from this crop of horses when you’re handicapping them for this season.  Dont’ be afraid to take a few chances on some nicely priced horses!

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