BALTIMORE - Preakness winner Shackleford and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom could meet again in next month's Belmont Stakes, resuming a newfound rivalry among a group of 3-year-old colts that haven't gotten much respect this year.
Shackleford returned to Kentucky on Sunday after bouncing back from a fourth-place finish in the Derby to outlast Animal Kingdom by a half-length in the Preakness a day earlier.
Dale Romans said he wants to watch Shackleford train for a couple of days before making a decision on whether to run in the grueling 11/2-mile Belmont in New York on June 11.
"If he trains like he did going into the Derby, I don't know why we would pass," he said. "I think it's better than 50-50."
Graham Motion plans to give Animal Kingdom a week at his stable in the Maryland countryside to see how he comes out of his latest race. Asked about the possibility of running in the Belmont, the trainer said, "We would love to do it."
Having the winners of the first two legs of the Triple Crown face off again in the Belmont would be a good thing for racing, Motion said.
It would mark the 20th time the Derby and Preakness winners chased each other in the Triple Crown finale. Previously, the Derby winner has won four times, most recently Swale in 1984, while the Preakness winner has emerged victorious nine times, with Afleet Alex winning in 2005.
"It'd be great if we could develop a little rivalry within the 3-year-old division," Romans said. "This is a good group of horses."
The superstar of this year's crop of 3-year-olds was supposed to be Uncle Mo, last year's juvenile champion. But he was scratched the day before the Kentucky Derby because of a puzzling gastrointestinal illness and is currently out of training with no date set for his return.
"These 3-year-olds are a lot better than people are giving them credit for, even without Uncle Mo," Romans said. "When he gets back in the picture, I think this is a good group of horses."
Romans believes Shackleford's front-running style would be well-suited to the Belmont. Animal Kingdom is a closer, and he came charging down the stretch in the Preakness as the only horse with a chance of catching Shackleford in the final strides.
"There is no doubt in my mind, in another sixteenth of a mile we get there," Motion said. "That's why it's a Triple Crown. That's why there are so many different intangibles to the Triple Crown. That's why it hasn't been done for so long."
Affirmed was the 11th horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont, in 1978.
"Three different distances at three different racetracks over five weeks. It takes a super horse to accomplish it," Romans said. "I think that's why it's one of the great things in sports.
"It will happen again," he added, "only when a super horse comes along."
Both Shackleford and Animal Kingdom are lightly raced colts, which could help them endure the compressed five-week Triple Crown schedule.
The Preakness was Shackleford's seventh career start, but his first win since Feb. 5 at Florida's Gulfstream Park.
"Mentally, he was a little immature," Romans said. "In the Florida Derby he was kind of looking around when he got to the lead. In the Kentucky Derby it looked like he had finally kind of put it all together. It was almost like he figured out what this was about."
Other colts being considered for the Belmont are: Peter Pan winner Alternation, Prime Cut, Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro, Ireland-based Master of Hounds (fifth in the Derby), Santiva (sixth in the Derby), Stay Thirsty (12th in the Derby), Anthony's Cross, Isn't He Perfect (ninth in the Preakness), and Harlan's Hello. Also in that group are Dialed In, and Mucho Macho Man, who both ran in the Derby and Preakness.