Even without Nehro, Preakness could draw 14 horses
BALTIMORE (AP) — There will be no rematch between Animal Kingdom and Nehro at the Preakness.
Nehro, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby behind Animal Kingdom, will skip Saturday's second leg of the Triple Crown and be pointed toward next month's Belmont.
Nehro's owner, Ahmed Zayat, said Tuesday the decision was based on the horse's hectic spring schedule. Although Nehro emerged well from the Derby, the Preakness would have been his fourth race in the past two months.
Despite Nehro's absence, the race is expected to attract the maximum 14 horses — only the third time since 1991 that 14 horses have run in the Preakness.
Animal Kingdom trainer Graham Motion will enter Wednesday's draw with more concern about his horse's post position than the credentials of the other entrants. After starting from the No. 16 post at Churchill Downs, Animal Kingdom rallied to beat Nehro by 2¾ lengths.
Motion wants no part of the Preakness rail.
"I'd rather not be stuck on the inside, very much like the Derby," Motion said. "It's 14 horses instead of 20, but it's still a large field so he's going to have to navigate traffic. He's not looking obviously (to be) on the pace. I'd much rather be on the middle to outside."
No matter where Animal Kingdom begins, he won't have to worry about Nehro at the finish.
"It was a hard decision for Mr. Zayat to make," Bradley Weisbord, racing and finance manager for owner Zayat Stables LLC, said in Louisville, Ky. "Four races in eight weeks seemed like a lot to ask. For any top race horse, that's a lot of running in this day and age."
Before competing in the Derby, Nehro was second in the Louisiana Derby on March 26 and second in the Arkansas Derby on April 16.
Weisbord expects Nehro to continue to train at Churchill Downs before moving to Belmont in the next couple weeks.
Weisbord said the long-term goal for the son of Mineshaft with be North America's richest race, the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 5, contested at the same distance and on the same track as the Kentucky Derby.
With Nehro out, Isn't He Perfect moves into position to join the starting field. Isn't He Perfect has amassed more than $90,000 in earnings but hasn't finished in the money in three stakes races this year.
It will be the first Triple Crown race for trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal, who is from Guyana and based in New York. Shivmangal wasn't assured a spot until Nehro dropped out.
"I'm more than happy to be in the race," Shivmangal said. "I can't tell you how good it felt."
Saratoga Red, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, needs another horse to drop out to make the Preakness field. If that doesn't happen, Saratoga Red probably will run in Saturday's undercard.
The stakes barn at Pimlico was virtually empty Tuesday. Seven horses are expected to arrive Wednesday, but it remains likely that Animal Kingdom will be shipped Saturday morning from the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton.
AP correspondent Josh Abner in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.