When the post positions for the 2011 Belmont Stakes were drawn on Wednesday, Animal Kingdom found himself in a tough spot. In the No. 9 gate, which sits just to the outside of center in the 12 horse field, the Kentucky Derby winner will have plenty of traffic to deal with, and a long way to go to dive inside to the rail. And if history is any indication, the odds are stacked against Animal Kingdom, despite his role as the morning line favorite.
The No. 9 gate holds somewhat of a curse, and the Kentucky Derby-Belmont Stakes double isn't an easy feat, either.
Animal Kingdom, ridden by John Velazquez, will leave from the No. 9 post, which has produced only four Belmont winners since 1905. The colt, trained by Graham Motion, is attempting to become the 12th to complete a Derby-Belmont sweep. The last to succeed was Thunder Gulch in 1995.
Unless Animal Kingdom stumbles, his post position shouldn't matter, though there is one factor we saw in play at the Preakness Stakes. Animal Kingdom will run near the back of the pack, and has demonstrated a quick burst to close, as well as the stamina to run well at the lengthier Belmont. Because he won't be jockeying for a spot at the front at the start of the race, the post position shouldn't have much of an impact.
But we do know Animal Kingdom doesn't like running in the wash of other horses. After the Preakness Stakes, jockey John Velazquez noted Animal Kingdom acted up when getting dirt kicked up in his face, and it made the earlier parts of the race tougher. Even still, if the race was just a tick longer, it's likely Animal Kingdom wouldn't hauled-in Shackleford and won the Preakness, and the lengthier Belmont gives him that extra room.
Look back on our 2011 Preakness StoryStream to get up to speed To look back at the Derby, check out SB Nation's 2011 Kentucky Derby StoryStream. Also, our horse racing blog And Down The Stretch They Come has two must-read resources for Belmont fans: A Beginner's Guide To Following Horse Racing and a glossary of horse racing terms.