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2011 Preakness Preview: Can Animal Kingdom Do It Again?

Saturday afternoon marks the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course. The early 2-1 candidate is Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Jockey John R. Velazquez rode Animal Kingdom on 20-1 odds to the winners circle two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, before a record crowd of 164,858.

For Velazquez it wasn't his first Triple Crown victory as he jockeyed Rags to Riches to win the 2007 Belmont Stakes, the first filly to do so since 1905. The 39-year old Puerto Rican, Velazquez, has nearly 4,500 career victories under his belt, since winning his first race in 1990.

The horse, Animal Kingdom, has only five career races finishing first in three, and second in two. Owned by Barry Irwin's Team Valor, based out of Kentucky, the colt is trained by H. Graham Motion. Animal Kingdom happened to be the first horse Motion has ever trained that has won a coveted Triple Crown race. On Saturday, Animal Kingdom will be starting from the 11th position in a face that will feature 14 horses.

Andrew Beyer of the Washington Post believes Animal Kingdom may have the moxy to win the second leg, albeit the relative obscurity Animal Kingdom overcame to win the Derby, the first experience on a dirt track for the winner. Beyer also offers a primer for the race at Pimlico here.

Though the betting odds are sure to fluctuate leading up until race time, the two biggest challengers appear to be Mucho Macho Man, and Dialed In, who both will be setting up next to Animal Kingdom in the ninth and 10th positions at the starting gate. Don't count out Midnight Interlude, at 15-1 odds, owned by Bob Baffert. Baffert certainly has the experience in buying the right horses, as he has been the winning owner during nine Triple Crown races.

Post time is 5:18 local time, with complete coverage being shown on NBC.