Haskin's Derby Report: An Animal on Dirt?

Perhaps none of the past weekend’s workouts was more anticipated than the main track work by Animal Kingdom, who has never run on dirt or worked over it all year and who had his first scheduled dirt drill canceled last week due to bad track conditions at Churchill Downs.

The good news is that his work was exceptional. He was able to make a couple of moves to put himself where the rider wanted and leveled off beautifully after having a single cross thrown on him. And best of all was his strong gallop-out. He certainly seemed to move over the dirt well.

What we like about this horse is his ability to quicken, but unlike some horses who can give that big burst for an eighth of a mile, he quickens and then just keeps going. He showed in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) that he can put himself into contention quickly and then sustain his run, wearing down his opponents rather than blowing right by them.

He was always an awkward, immature colt, but has matured and improved, and according to his exercise rider at Keeneland, Heather Craig, has become more competitive and is developing into a real racehorse. He does have to overcome his lack of racing, with only four career starts, and a six-week layoff, but he still has the potential to surprise a lot of people.
 Most will look at Animal Kingdom’s pedigree and see grass and more grass. Although that is understandable, there is a lot more to his pedigree than just the obvious names in his first four generations.
There is no doubt that Animal Kingdom’s pedigree is inundated with grass horses, mainly European, which is as grassy as it gets. But let’s look and see what’s beneath all that German, English, and French blood, and a touch of Irish.
We’ll start on the sire’s side. Leroidesanimaux, as we all know, was a top-class grass horse, who was actually bred in Brazil, despite his French and English heritage. His sire, Candy Stripes, sired on the of the great dirt horses of the past few decades, Invasor, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and Whitney among others, as well as the Uruguayan Triple Crown. Candy Stripes also is the broodmare sire of Candy Ride, who was brilliant on both grass and dirt, winning the Pacific Classic in track-record time.
Leroidesanimaux’s dam, Disemble, is a half-sister to the great Juddmonte broodmare Hasili, who produced five grade I winners and two Breeders’ Cup winners – Banks Hill, Heat Haze, Intercontinental, Caciques, and Champs Elysses. The only one given an opportunity on dirt was Champs Elysses, who finished second and third in the Santa Anita Handicap.
Leroidesanimaux’s broodmare sire, Ahonoora, was a top-class European sprinter, but sired Dr. Devious, who captured the English Derby and Irish Champion Stakes, yet also closed from 17th to finish a respectable seventh in the Kentucky Derby.
On the female sire, Animal Kingdom’s broodmare sire, Acatenango, was strictly a grass horse who was the Horse of the Year in Germany three times and champion sire four times. He passes along tremendous toughness and stamina.
Animal Kingdom’s maternal great-grandsire, Dancing Brave, won the Arc de Triomphe, 2,000 Guineas, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but it is important to note that he is a full-brother to the classy French filly Jolypha, who captured the French Oaks and Prix Vermeille before coming to America, where she finished a fast-closing third behind A.P. Indy and Pleasant Tap in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, beaten only 2 1/2 lengths and a half-length for second.
Dancing Brave’s and Jolypha’s dam, Navajo Princess, also excelled on dirt and grass, winning the Molly Pitcher and finishing third in the Apple Blossom, both on dirt. Navajo Princess’ sire, Drone, was undefeated in four starts for Claiborne Farm before an injury ended his career. He became a classic influence at stud as the broodmare sire of Kentucky Derby winners Grindstone and Charismatic.
To add to this classy resume, Animal Kingdom’s fourth generation tail-female sire is Rheffic, another tough, hard-knocking horse who captured the French Derby and Grand Prix de Paris.
So, as you can see, there are a great number of top-class dirt influences hidden beneath all that classic European blood. And there is no question about him getting the mile and a quarter.

He should actually be even more formidable if the track comes up wet and packed down, which is a distinct possibility, judging from the long-range forecast. Because of its heavy clay content, the Churchill Downs surface is conducive to grass horses (just remember how Barbaro moved way up over it compared to Gulfstream). And if it is wet and packed down, there will be less kickback, which is always a concern when a horse is running on dirt for the first time. Another horse who looked impressive working Monday was Brilliant Speed, who also is a grass/synthetic horse that appeared to handle the Churchill surface beautifully.

It might be worth it to keep an eye on Animal Kingdom, a rapidly improving colt who is capable of making some noise on May 7.

Finally, if you have some concerns about Animal Kingdom having accomplished enough, but are as totally confused as most people because of a lack of a standout, you might want to remember these words: If the proven have proven little, go with the unproven, because you never know what they will prove.

A few observations

The most jaw-dropping horse in appearance has to be Shackleford, who looks like a Clydesdale compared to most of these, but moves like a show horse.

If there is a better looking horse than Dialed In, we haven’t seen him yet. As he walked the shed Sunday afternoon, you had to be impressed with way he was dappled out and his incredible muscle tone. He’s not a big horse by any means, but he has a powerful shoulder and his hind quarters are rippling. Watching his demeanor, he looks like he’s coiled and ready for action.

We haven’t seen many of the horses close up yet , but the other one we did see who stood out was Soldat. His coat looks great and has a nice shine to it and we loved the way he looked galloping this morning, with smooth strides and great purpose. And he did seem to get a bit competitive when an Oaks filly galloped up on his inside. He looks like he couldn’t be doing any better.


Leave a Comment:


Great post, Steve!

Did you happen to see Nehro's workout this morning? I read that he didn't gallop out that well and changed back to his left lead in the stretch. What did you think of it?


02 May 2011 1:17 PM
Zen's Auntie

I liked Animal kKingdoms work too Steve. He seemed fit and focused and had a great sheen to him. I think his lack of experinece may tell on him but others with 4 starts are legit so why not him? wonder how he with take the clumpy kickback?  He deffinately looks BETTER than 5 weeks ago.

Of Course, I couldn't agree more with your observations of Dailed In. He just LOOKS the part here. I have already gone on about it so I wont regush here. Suffice it to say I can not wait to see the Dirty Late Run.  

Shackleford looks better now thsn on FL derby day too, tasty on the front end indeed, ya think he could shake loose and carry?  Position will matter for Him.  

So many of these colts are on the upswing close to the top of it too.  Makes me that much more concerned about Mo.  

I was sorry to hear about R Heat Lightning I hope its nothing serious  - its Joyful Victory's to lose now. I would really like to see it for Larry even though a Grey exacta could could be a winner. Make it a tri with Summer Soiree.

I just hope they all get around safe.  

02 May 2011 2:02 PM
El Kabong

Great news. From some of the photos, I've seen, you hit the nail on the head with Shackleford. He's looks like he could pull a train. The scouts over at Anheuser-Busch are probably ready to make him an offer. Thanks for the eye on Soldat. I had a feeling he would enjoy the switch in weather and the track surface, so it's nice to hear that his coat looks sharp. Keep up the great work, this is what you do best in my opinion, your eye doesn't miss much.

02 May 2011 2:46 PM
Paula Higgins

Interesting post Steve. I am glad Dialed In looks good. He is one of my top three. Uncle Mo, Dialed In and Mucho Macho Man. The  shoulders and hind quarters being in good shape is nice to hear. Reminds me of a certain Super Mare who had the same qualities.

02 May 2011 2:50 PM

I wish I was there.  This year, more than ever, seeing the contenders is the missing factor in the equation.  Counting on you, Steve.  

02 May 2011 2:53 PM

Here's my top ten:

1 Dialed In

2 Mucho Macho Man

3 Archarcharch

4 Nehro

5 Uncle Mo

6 Toby's Corner

7 Pants On Fire

8 Midnight Interlude

9 Shackleford

10 Decisive Moment

I've got this feeling that Decisive Moment is going to outrun his odds. He's been training sharply, and one must admit that he ran a remarkable race in the Spiral Stakes. Despite racing four wide throughout the entire race while pressing a fast pace (he ran a :22 4/5 second quarter), he stayed on well to finish a clear second. He's been at Churchill for a month now, and he may be able to hit the board -- or perhaps even win if he gets a really good trip.


02 May 2011 3:33 PM

Your observations are so appreciated, especially about Animal Kingdom.

Shackleford does make quite a presence and oh boy, DI looks ret-to-go.

I am very interested regarding your observations about Midnight Interlude and MMM.  MMM looks like he still has a lot of filling out ahead of him and I wonder how that fact and the long lay-off will effect his performance.

02 May 2011 3:33 PM
Karen in Texas

Thanks for the news and observations, Steve! Shackleford does look like a tank--I'm happy that he made it into the Derby field.

I hope all the Derby and Oaks contenders remain safe through the week and during their respective races.

02 May 2011 4:26 PM
Scott C

I guarantee I won't be leaving Animal Kingdom off my ticket. I'm still trying to get over the Arkansas Derby after leaving a certain 25-1 horse off the top of my tri. I def won't be influenced this time and both of those colts will be in play on saturday.

02 May 2011 7:19 PM

Thanks Steve for your update.  I was on the backside also.  Agree about Shackleford, nice easy way of going.  Soldat looked very professional, going about his business with determination.  MMM glided over the track with that big reaching stride.  I hope he can put it all together.  Very impressed with Archx3.  

It's great to back there in the morning.  Will be on the frontside in the morning.

Especially like your words of wisdom.  This race is wide open.  Stats aside,  I'm going with my gut.

02 May 2011 8:23 PM

I'm Thinking that Shackelford will defenality run big, his FL Derby preformance was amazing, I've just got a gut feeling about him. Mucho Macho Man is another one of my favorites, with his new shoes they should suit him better and he just might be ready to peak on derby day. So far my horses are Shackelford, Mucho Macho Man, Archarcharch, Uncle Mo, Dialed In. I'm not completly sure of the order of them yet, I'll figure that out later!

02 May 2011 9:00 PM
Bill in Atlanta

Steve, as always, your comments are needed and appreciated. For those of us that won't be there until Thursday, you are our best connection to what is happening at CD.

It does look like the forecast holds more rain for this weekend. If it is wet, and based on your analysis of Animal Kingdom, I will include him in super with the other sloppy track horses....Soldat, Tobys Corner.   And one thing that most people won't go back and see is that one of MMM's wins was on a sloppy track so he will be in that group of wet racers.

But if we get lucky and the rain holds off, my super will be:

Uncle Mo...it's like my buddy from St Louis said, even if Mo at 90%, he is a notch above this crop of 3yo's.

MMM....call it the Cinderella story, or the feel good story, this long legged horse won't be three for another month, and everybody says he will stop short of a mile and 1/4, I believe he'll make the board, and all of us in Georgia will be happy campers

Arch3....the other feel good story, but the horse is for real and another hot firing closer.

Dialed In....I had tossed him, but your reports are convincing me otherwise. I'll use him.

Soldat....I had tossed him too, but there you go again with those reports.

Thanks again for the on-site reports. Please keepmthem coming.

02 May 2011 9:07 PM

Correct me if i'm wrong....the fact that shackleford looks like a tank........that's good? thats a mile and a quarter horse? or a quarter horse? really? that's what we should look for in a distance horse?  

02 May 2011 9:33 PM

Steve- I am a fan through your published prose and via your comments on "At the Races". Your insight esp regarding the Derby Trail is wonderful. You have a unique ability to blend historical facts & your personal observations. You are my eyes @ Churchill your observations confirm my own feelings. Seeing Shackleford's work time and then reading your opinion validates he is worthy of Derby consideration. Keep up the good work!

02 May 2011 9:59 PM

Have a few more pints of vitamin water so you wont stay thirsty and its about time to narrow that top ten list to 5.So lets get the workout list narrowed down too.Top five workouts,bottom five.I think commenting on workouts is very subjective anyway and the way the media has positive things to say about almost all the workouts is enough to confuse the casual fan.BTW what is a textbook workout and do you think all the trainers read the same book.

02 May 2011 11:22 PM

For what it's worth, Leroidesanimaux's damsire Ahonoora also had a say in a pretty nice dirt racemare that ran a few years back.  

He is the broodmare sire of Azeri!

03 May 2011 12:57 AM


I'll correct you.  The word 'tank' is not in Steve's description of Shackleford.

Try politics, then you can put words in a person's mouth they didn't say.

03 May 2011 5:58 AM
Buster Says

I got down on Animal Kingdom in the future book. When most of the Derby horses are looking for an oxygen tank in the stretch, this one will still be running.

03 May 2011 6:31 AM

I like like Animal Kingdom's Pedigree, also. Leroidesanimaux seems more to produce the type of horse with speed, and he seemed to be pretty much a mile-type horse when he was running. I bet his daughter, Sarah's Secret, at Hollywood Park and won with her on Sunday when she was going 6F on the turf. I have been in the game a long time, I strongly feel that his progeny are not geared for 1 1/4 mile. Dialed in is one of the few horse who has not completely showed his "hand" yet, as he has only had 4 races, and they haven't gotten to the bottom of him as many of the other horses have gotten to their full potential. I think he has the best breeding in the race, as Mineshaft was

a true 1 1/4 mile horse, being out of AP Indy;many of the other horses are questionable as they seem to have alot of sprinting blood in them.(Warfront, Mr. Frisky etc..). I like Brilliant Speed with the world's greatest jockey, Joel Rosario, who is much the best jockey in this race. He may be the greatest rider ever. Brilliant Speed's pedigree is super strong for 1 1/4th miles, being out of Dynaformer who also produced Barbaro; his dam is from a tremendous line that suggest distance and her sisters won at the classic distances and the dam is related to 1 1/2 mile Belmont winner Touch Gold, tremendous horse With Approval, and Canadian Triple Crown winner Izvestia. Add the best rider in the world to these factors and you may have the Derby Winner. Uncle Mo is out of Indian Charlie, who seemed just like a Miler as Baffert never could get him to get the classic distance. I reviewed all of the videos on WinBy5.com (they have a great Kentucky Derby Primer page where you can watch all of the races quickly and on one page), and they also have all of this information, and stories, about Joel Rosario that are very convincing that he gives your horse a 5-length advantage over even the best jockeys.

03 May 2011 6:33 AM

This Derby is wide open as said by many trainers,so you've gotta play for money,i'm sticking with my nag Pants on Fire,La derby was the best prep by far with two horses coming back to run well.

03 May 2011 7:53 AM

RAIN RAIN RAIN, get you mudders on your tickets. Soldat, MMM, Toby, Animal, Stay Thirsty,

03 May 2011 8:59 AM

I've Been watching the works and I have to say...perhaps it's a very good thing the horses are forced to work in the slop, because it's more than likely they will have to deal with it on Saturday.

Animal Kingdom has a push button acceleration that was amazing to watch, but he really pounds the track like a jack hammer. However, Archx3 and POF seemed to glide over the sloppy track with little effort and and maximum economy.  They were beautiful and exciting to watch.  Stay Thirsty is the sleeper of the bunch.  His stride is elegant.  I really preferred his work to Uncle Mo's.  MMM runs very well, but he seems highly intelligent which makes him very young and curious.  With a crowd of 100,000, will he keep his concentration on the track?  Twice the Appeal???  You simply can't ignore Borel.  I'm still of the opinion that the mid-pack runners will win the day.  (And I'm absolutely rooting for Rosie).  But if Ice Box could run so well last year, you simply can't exclude the deep closers.  I guess the final picks will come after post positions are drawn.  One more day....one more day.

03 May 2011 9:23 AM

toby's corner scratched

03 May 2011 10:03 AM
Monarchos Matt


If you're of the opinion that the Louisiana Derby and Arkansas Derby were the two best preps, as I am, doesn't Nehro deserve your attention? He was the most impressive horse in both races.

03 May 2011 10:32 AM


Disappointing news for Toby's Corner's connection. The story has come out the Toby has been withdrawn from the Derby due to lameness in his left hind and did not ship from Fair Hill to Churchill Downs as expected this morning.

03 May 2011 10:33 AM
Pedigree Ann

HorseForCourses, Animal Kingdom's female side has stamina coming out of the wazoo. German classic blood, the stoutest in the world. He even has a line back to Kincsem, she of 54 wins in 54 starts at the highest levels.

And Mr. Frisky was not a sprinter; he's the horse who won the Santa Anita Derby with the beginnings of a massive tumor growing in his sinuses. Criticizing his Derby effort is like criticizing Lost in the Fog for his loss in the BC Sprint, with his fatal cancer already started in his gut.

Toby's Corner pedigree reminds me of Silver Charm's in a way. Solid racehorses in all the slots and plenty of old-style US bloodlines - no Raise a Native or Storm Cat. Do not overlook the stamina influence of Deputed Testamony, damsire of Bellamy Road.

03 May 2011 10:34 AM

Buster had some good comments but I couldn't get past the error.  A horse is not out of his sire but by his sire and out of his dam. Not to be a nudge but it kept throwing me. Any top horse with Candy stripes in his lineage is going to be FAST. I love him as a sire and still have chills when I remember Candy Ride's Pacific win.

03 May 2011 10:37 AM
Monarchos Matt

Mr. Haskin-

Thanks for the report on Animal Kingdom. With the defection of Toby's Corner, he seems like the next best closer after Nehro and Dialed In, and perhaps Brilliant Speed...and shoulx offer a lot of value. However, what gives me a bit of pause is that his win in the Spiral over the poly doesn't look as good on paper as it did visually. He ran a length off the pace of a :46.1 half and then came home in :39 and change for his final 3/8 and then in :13 and 2 for his final 1/8. Any thoughts on those fractions? Perhaps he'll improve on the dirt but those closing splits don't appear competitive here.

03 May 2011 10:42 AM
Zen's Auntie

And it just gets more WIDE open, I understand Motions desire to err on the side of Caution. Kudos Grahm  

I like Archarcharch's maintenance move. This colt is ready.

03 May 2011 10:45 AM

Have you seen Twice the Appeal yet?  Is he getting over the track okay?  Does he appear to be a horse that will relish a tight rail trip?  

03 May 2011 10:45 AM

This is off topic, but last year you made a post of the best dirt fillies of the last 50 years. I believe you said you might do one of the grass fillies-do you think you might do that? If so I can't wait to see it.

03 May 2011 11:47 AM

All is about done as far as workouts--of course I am not on track and have to get drips and drabs on HRTV (TVG was much better and informative) but the only horse that consistently worked well "to me" MMM--Now whether he is good enough is another matter.

The star of this article although I could be very wrong--after watching the Spiral a few times I still think the 2nd PL finisher ran a much better race. He is my weirdy for the Derby to make the ticket.

AK might well have more potential but when handicapping a event it is the now that carries the most weight.

From weather reports it doesn't look promising of a fast track with rain on Oak's day.  If the Derby wasn't hard enough already it may could down to the horse that handles the off track best.

Good Luck to all.

03 May 2011 12:26 PM

So many different takes on this years Derby! Usually I have one or two favourites but not this year. I'm just going to take chicken route perch on the fence.

BTW folks please stop making the editor in me crazy by referring to horses as 'out of' a stallion. Horses are 'by stallions' and 'out of' mares, never the other way around.

03 May 2011 12:28 PM

Horses for Courses

Although in another blog I mention that Joel might be the top rider in the game now to the Borel (after the wedding)camp and in a zone I would still make JL my first choice because he rides there.

Now for reality ---a rider usually is the least important part of a win---I put the exercise rider and groom in importance before the rider. You say 5 lengths over any ---I say 100 riders-- we have so many good ones --are within a length. I don't believe the top jock in FL or NY this winter even have a mount.

Horse runs the race not the jock.

Another tip---agents make the jock not the other way around---look for A Garcia to have a great few years---he has the best in the business

03 May 2011 12:41 PM

Still early but as I won’t have the  luxury of how the track is playing to post time because I will be at the track –no big bet in either race

For the benefit of those brave "Prognosticators"  who put their picks up and boast they are brilliant—I have no such delusions of grandeur in this year’s Derby but  for comparison sake I will live with these picks for the challenge.

OAKS---Really wanted R Heat Lighting to run because I didn’t like her—now I am chalk—automatic lowering of wager

Joyful Victory . Zazu, $20 Exactor Box and on top of in tri’s

Lilacs and Lace, Daisy Devine, Kathmanblu underneath $24 ticket in tri

Derby Pick/Bet


Dailed In


Archarcharch, MMM, Decisive Moment, Midnight Interlude, Nehro, Stay Thirsty with

Archarcharch, MMM, Decisive Moment, Midnight Interlude, Nehro Stay Thirsty, add Soldat and Shackleford in 3rd--$48 ticket

Then put Midnight Interlude on top of Dailed In for 2nd

with the same (include the 3rd horses) $7 add on--total $55 which is more than this Derby is worth

If I hit it will pay enough especially if Decisive Moment can crack the first 3—I just watched the races again and just saw how close how many average horses were there at the 1/8 pole in the Wood so I just can’t Mo it (although if he bounces back it won’t shock me) and think the second place was not really Derby class although on that day I used him because I thought the field was so weak and the winner just beat him. The winner and place horse both checked more than once in the Wood so that even makes Mo’s Wood worse.  Soldat really didn’t run well in the FL Derby but did in the slop--sooo

I would be truly surprised if I wasn't pretty close in the Oaks---the Derby that's an animal of a different color---I suspect I could be way off

03 May 2011 3:14 PM

Monarchos Matt,

i don't like Nehro as he is still green,has two solid efforts winning none and his last work was not spectacular,his odds will be shorter than POF who beat him.Go back and look at the La Derby,he really dug in when MMM came to him,and that race was one of the few to come back in under 1.50.Ya can't bet em all.POF is live with his ability to stalk and keep out of the hunt.

04 May 2011 8:48 PM

Wow, Steve, you nailed it!

07 May 2011 7:42 PM

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