The big hype and the big money for this Saturday's Belmont Stakes will go to Animal Kingdom and Shackleford. And deservedly so: Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby, and Shackleford the Preakness. But if you're looking for a sentimental long-shot bet in the third leg of the Triple Crown, Isn't He Perfect is your horse. Not so much for the colt's recent performances — he finished a dismal ninth in the Preakness — but for his eccentric and endearing trainer. Doodnauth Shivmangal began a Belmont press conference diatribe this week by saying, "There was all this written about me being suspended. I was never suspended! Well, I was only suspended for 30 days." Besides, the infraction took place twenty years ago, when one of his horses accidentally consumed something stronger than Shivmangal's trademark feed mixture of Guinness Extra Stout, egg whites, and brown sugar. The Belmont is the city's glamour thoroughbred event, attracting swells and international players for a single day, but Shivmangal is one of the beleaguered local industry's blue-collar stalwarts, running horses here year-round, in good weather and bad. In part that's because for years he owned a freight-trucking business at JFK. His heart, though, is at the track. Shivmangal's father was a trainer in Guyana, his brother a jockey; his wife, two sons, and two daughters help with his New York stables; and his Belmont entry is owned by a cousin. At 30–1, Isn't He Perfect may not merit a large wager. But he's well worth rooting for.
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