Analyzing the Belmont post draw

Both Shackleford and Animal Kingdom will have work to do to be in this position again. Maxwell Kruger/US Presswire

The final leg of the Triple Crown has been very hit or miss as to whether the race had any big-picture importance. However, even though a Triple Crown won't be on the line, Saturday's Belmont Stakes looks to be as good a contest as there has been in years.

For only the 20th time in history, the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness winner will square off in the 1½-mile "Test of Champions," and the winner will have the inside track to year-end champion three-year-old honors. The other intriguing part of Saturday's race is that it is the first time that the top seven finishers and eight overall runners from the Derby will all start in the Belmont.

Where they will begin the race Saturday will be crucial, as none of the horses have ever gone the trying distance of 1½ miles. Here is a breakdown of winners and losers from Wednesday's post-position draw:

Kentucky Derby winner

Animal Kingdom, No. 9 (2-1 morning-line favorite): It's a mixed bag for the chestnut colt, as getting stuck close to the outside is rarely a good thing. He overcame the 16 post in the Derby with a trouble-free trip and will need to do much the same again.

He will likely drop to near the back of the pack early but must avoid getting floated wide on the first turn, as well as dropping too far behind. Big closers have not fared well in the Belmont. The ninth post is just 4-for-46, but the last post-time favorite to start from there won (Afleet Alex, 2005). If Animal Kingdom is able to repeat the closing kick he showed in the Derby and Preakness, he will be the horse to beat Saturday.