Animal Kingdom won the Dubai World Cup in his last start. He was the first horse to pull off the Kentucky Derby/ Dubai World Cup double since the late 1990s (Photos courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).
American horse racing fans can stand tall and proud June 18 when 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom runs on the royal lawn of Ascot Racecourse. No matter the outcome, Animal Kingdom carries the strength of a nation. As an American racing fan, I could not have asked for a better “team” to represent everything great about American racing. The magnificent colt is trained by Graham Motion, an American favorite, and will be piloted by Hall of Fame jockey John Velasquez. A very proud day indeed!
Animal Kingdom will face a formidable field in what is anticipated to be his final start before he retires to stud for the southern hemisphere breeding season. Following his Dubai World Cup victory, the 5-year-old chestnut shipped from Dubai directly to England, and has been training well in preparation for the one mile Queen Anne Stakes. His connections opted for the meet’s opening race rather than the 1 ¼ mile Prince of Wales’s Stakes, where he would have had to face the likes of Al Kazeem and Camelot.
“Your mile at Ascot is much more grueling, and a mile and a quarter to us in the States is like a mile and a half and may just be too much,” Motion explain.
The Queen Anne will be the first time Velazquez is aboard the big chestnut since riding him in early 2012, regaining the mount because his previous Royal Ascot experiences. Although Joel Rosario has ridden Animal Kingdom in his two previous races, the jockey has never ridden over this unique course. Consequently, Velazquez will be reunited with the mount that brought him his first Derby victory.
A Long and Winding Road
Animal Kingdom had a short but promising juvenile campaign, with the beginning of his full potential coming at three. In 2011, his first win came in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes on Turfway Park’s synthetic oval. His next race was the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, which he won by 2 ¾ lengths despite the last-minute jockey switch to John Velazquez. He entered the Preakness Stakes as the favorite, but crossed the wire second behind a tenacious Shackleford. In the Belmont Stakes, Animal Kingdom made a valiant run; however, he finished only sixth behind Ruler on Ice. An incident at the start of that 1 ½ mile classic caused him to take a stumble that nearly unseated John Velazquez, and in the first few strides, the colt sustained a small fissure in his left hind leg. After this injury, the Derby winner was sidelined until February of the following year.
In preparation for the 2012 Dubai World Cup, he returned in an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Animal Kingdom won decisively; proof that he could be an even better horse with age. However, more misfortune befell him; it was found that he had a stress fracture in his pelvis and he was again put on the shelf. Animal Kingdom returned at the end of the 2012 racing season in the Breeders’ Cup Mile where he finished second, beaten only 1 ½ lengths by 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Coming into the stretch, he was full of run but could not find a path between horses. A hole opened late in the final strides and he gave a superhorse effort in defeat.
He made his 2013 debut in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap against a lineup that included Point of Entry. With Joel Rosario aboard for the first time, he made a premature bid and had the lead going into the stretch. He could not sustain this surge to hold off Point of Entry and rider John Velazquez. Animal Kingdom came out of the race in good shape, continuing on to obtain the ultimate prize – all the wealth, splendor, and prestige of the Dubai World Cup. After all the trials of his career, he fulfilled his connections’ hopes of winning the world’s richest race by 2 lengths.
Tune into HRTV or TVG at 9:30 AM EST June 18 to watch Animal Kingdom in the Queen Anne. Both channels will cover the entire meet (June 18-22).
Watch RacingUK's feature on Animal Kingdom here.
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