Bon Voyage, Animal Kingdom

The perception of greatness has changed with the times. Years ago, defeats did not diminish a horse’s greatness if the victories were plentiful enough and impressive enough to keep the defeats veiled in the background. On rare occasions, defeats actually helped define a horse’s greatness (for example Seattle Slew and Zenyatta). Horses back then earned their greatness through their number of major victories, weight carrying ability, competition, and in most cases their longevity. Defeats were regarded as steppingstones to the next victory.

For every Man o’War, Native Dancer, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Ruffian, and Spectacular Bid, horses with near-perfect records, there was a Seabiscuit, Forego, Kelso, Gallorette, Equipoise, and John Henry – horses who became a part of the fabric of racing, despite numerous defeats. Instead of the hit-and-run careers we see now that are used mainly as marketing tools to promote stallions, we had horses who were bred to race, and race they did, often becoming household names.

After 45 years in racing, I would like to think I can identify greatness in one form or another, as subjective as that may be. History does not record every great horse in its most hallowed pages, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t horses with greatness in them. Sometimes, injuries curtail a horse’s career and prevent him or her from entering racing’s pantheon of greats.

No one is going to mention the name Animal Kingdom with horses like those mentioned above, but who can deny the greatness he has exhibited? Because of his untimely injuries and long layoffs, one can only ask the proverbial “what if?”

Owned and bred by Team Valor and trained brilliantly by Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom is the only horse ever to win the Kentucky Derby having never run on dirt. He became only the second horse in 93 years to win the Derby with as few as four career starts. His final half-mile in :47 1/5 in the Derby was the second-fastest in the history of the race; only Secretariat came home faster. He was the only horse in 55 years to win the Derby off a six-week layoff. And now he is the only American-trained horse to win the Dubai World Cup on Meydan’s Tapeta surface, and in fact is the only one to even finish in the money. He accomplished it this year, dominating his opponents, despite every other American horse on the card finishing far up the track.

He even provided jockey John Velazquez with arguably the greatest pick-up mount in the history of the Kentucky Derby. There have been other notable ones, but no jockey had ever won the Derby after picking up the mount literally the night before the race.

Even Animal Kingdom’s breeding broke new barriers on an international scale. His sire, Leroidesanimaux, became the first Brazilian-bred horse to sire a U.S. classic winner. His dam, Dalicia, became the first German-bred mare to produce a U.S. classic winner. And his broodmare sire, Acatenango, became the first German-bred broodmare sire of a U.S. classic winner.

He also turned in one of the greatest losing efforts in Breeders’ Cup history, finishing second to eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, despite encountering as much trouble as any Breeders’ Cup starter in memory. His late closing burst after finally getting clear was a sight to behold.

In his second-place finishes in the Preakness, Breeders’ Cup Mile, and Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, he either had bad rides or bad trips, but excuses aside, he was beaten by horses with career earnings of $3.09 million, $3.5 million, and $1.8 million, respectively. In the Dubai World Cup, he defeated 11 opponents who had earned a combined $19.7 million.

Dirt, grass, Polytrack, Tapeta, it doesn’t matter. He has excelled on all of them.

I’ll never forget talking to Graham Motion outside his barn the morning of the Kentucky Derby, and the obvious concerns he had running in the Derby with so many question marks and not knowing what to expect. Motion, who was crushed over having just lost his big Derby horse, Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner, to injury was well aware that no horse had ever won the Derby making his dirt debut.

“I just don’t know,” he said. “The statistics are all against him, I feel good about running the horse, but it’s such an unknown. I love the horse, I love the way he worked over the dirt, and I love his attitude. He’s got everything going for him. It’s just that unknown.”

But as Jim Morrison said, “There are things known, and there are things unknown. And in between are the doors.”

Later that evening, Animal Kingdom burst through one of those doors, and awaiting him on the other side was Kentucky Derby immortality. By powering down the Churchill Downs stretch to a 2 ¾-length victory in front of a record crowd of 164,658, the unknown had become known. Racing had a new star and a legitimate Triple Crown threat.

I also recall speaking to Velazquez on the backstretch the day before the Derby. He had just lost his Derby mount following the scratch of 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo due to a then undiagnosed ailment. Two years earlier, Velazquez had seen his Derby favorite Quality Road withdrawn a week before the race because of a quarter crack, and then one year later, his heavy Derby favorite Eskendereya was withdrawn several days before the Derby with a career-ending injury.

Although disappointed and frustrated having lost three potential Derby favorites in three years, Velazquez understood that this sport can rip your heart out at any time and you have to learn to come to terms with it. He then uttered some of the most prophetic words I’ve ever heard on the racetrack.

“What can you do; it’s part of racing,” he said in the quiet of the backstretch. “One year we’ll win it when we least expect it.”

Never could he have imagined that that year would be the following day.

Robby Albarado, who was named to ride Animal Kingdom in the Derby, had suffered a broken nose after being kicked by a horse and felt he was unable to ride the day before the Derby. Motion and Irwin, uneasy about using a jockey who had not ridden for a while and had taken off his mounts the day before on Oaks Day, decided not to take any chances and they replaced Albarado with Velazquez.

“That call to Robby was a tough one to make,” Motion said. “But when he took off his mounts on Friday that was a concern, and when Johnny became available, we decided to go with him.”

The Derby gods had made an uncharacteristic 11th hour appearance on the scene. Destiny had somehow brought together Motion and Velazquez, whose families have been close friends for years.

Fate also played a major part in Animal Kingdom even being in the Derby. The plan was to run another Team Valor colt, Crimson China, who was more advanced than Animal Kingdom, in the Spiral Stakes on Polytrack at Turfway Park and run Animal Kingdom on the same card in the listed Rushaway Stakes. But when the Spiral field oversubscribed, it came down earnings to determine who would make the starting field. Animal Kingdom had earnings of $41,900, which qualified him, while Crimson China had only $28,838, which did not. So Irwin and Motion made a last-minute switch and ran Animal Kingdom in the Spiral and Crimson China in the Rushaway. While the latter could no better than second, Animal Kingdom made a spectacular run from 11th to win going away by almost three lengths. So, because of a difference in $13,062 in earnings, Animal Kingdom was now in the Kentucky Derby.

“In life, everything has to fit together,” Irwin said. “It’s nice to have the goods; it’s nice to be intelligent, but unless things go your way and you’re lucky, it’s not going to happen.”

Animal Kingdom had originally been trained by Wayne Catalano, but after the colt’s second start Irwin decided to use only one trainer and turned all his horses over to Motion, taking over a private barn at the Fair Hill Training Center where Motion already had a barn. Catalano took great interest in watching Animal Kingdom train at Churchill in the days leading up to the Derby, recalling the “big, green, backward” colt who needed a lot of time to get his act together.

When Animal Kingdom turned in a strong six-furlong work at Churchill Downs, handling the dirt beautifully, confidence began to build in the Team Valor camp.

The colt did not escape the eagle eye of Bob Baffert, who had watched the work. Standing by the gap several days later, he saw Animal Kingdom gallop by with those long powerful strides, and said three simple, but emphatic, words: “That’s the horse.”

As history records, Animal Kingdom powered down the stretch, despite racing greenly, to win by 2 ¾ lengths at odds of 20-1. A stunned, but ecstatic Velazquez could not believe the incredible turn of events and the new overnight star he had latched on to. All this green, inexperienced horse, who had never run on dirt, managed to do was come home his last two quarters in a spectacular :23 2/5 and :23 4/5.

In the Preakness, Animal Kingdom broke a bit slowly and found himself back in 13th, 18 lengths off the pace; much too far back over a track like Pimlico. Veleazquez asked for his run on the far turn, and Animal Kingdom began picking off horses, but simply had too much ground to make up on the brilliant and classy Shackleford. After being forced to go six-wide at the top of the stretch, he began cutting into Shackleford’s lead, but came up a half-length short. His final three-sixteenths in :18 1/5 was either the fastest or one of the fastest in the history of the race.

“It wasn’t meant to be this time,” Motion said. “He came pretty darn close, though. He got a lot of dirt kicked in his face today, which was different from the Derby. This is a remarkable horse. What he accomplished in such a short period of time is extraordinary.”

The fates were even crueler in the Belmont Stakes. First off, the track came up sloppy. At the start, Mucho Macho Man was crowded by longshot Isn’t He Perfcect and shied away from him. When he did, he smacked into Animal Kingdom, who then clipped heels and stumbled badly, nearly unseating Velazquez, who lost his left iron. By the time he recovered and got Animal Kingdom back in stride, he was last in the field of 12, about 15 lengths off the pace. Going wide into the far turn at Belmont and getting hung wide on that big turn normally spells disaster. Getting hung wide on a sloppy track and blowing by horses in and unheard of :23 2/5 makes it virtually impossible to sustain a move like that.

Animal Kingdom, finally feeling the effects of his disastrous trip, began spinning his wheels in the stretch, eventually finishing sixth. Soon after, it was discovered he had suffered a hairline fracture of his hind leg, which likely occurred when he was roughed up at the start. Follow-up X-rays revealed a slab fracture in the same leg. The colt underwent surgery, in which two screws were inserted, and he didn’t return to the races for another eight months.

During that time, he made several visits to the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center just up the road, where he spent time in the hyperbaric chamber. As he neared his return, he continued his rehab using the facility’s AquaPacer and cold saltwater spa.

“He’s such a classy horse,” said Bruce Jackson, who founded and runs the Therapy Center. “He always had an air about him and knew he was something special. Despite his setbacks, he’s a very tough, sturdy horse. He is some animal, he really is. You always felt he was allowing you to be around him rather than the other way around.”

Animal Kingdom returned with a stunning victory in an allowance race on the grass as a prep for the Dubai World Cup. But his comeback was brief, as he came out of the race with a stress fracture in the same hind leg that would sideline him for another 8 1/2 months.

It came as a surprise when Motion announced that Animal Kingdom would return in the Breeders’ Cup Mile against some of the world’s best milers, including eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan and top-class Europeans Excelebration and the French filly Moonlight Cloud. To attempt this without a prep race was a bold move, but Motion had confidence in the horse and his own ability to get him ready off such a long layoff.

Several weeks before the Breeders’ Cup, I ran into Motion outside his Fair Hill barn and he discussed his reason for bringing Animal Kingdom back in the Breeders’ Cup off a 259-day layoff and only one allowance race in 17 months. He said he was inclined not to rush to get a prep race in him, feeling the colt had the ability to run a big race first time back and he didn’t want to risk having him regress off that effort in the Breeders’ Cup.

That he was even able to make it back after two fractures and two long layoffs was amazing enough. Although he finished second behind Wise Dan in course-record time, it was his performance that provided the single most memorable moment of the entire Breeders’ Cup for me.

Animal Kingdom’s spectacular burst of speed after seeming hopelessly beaten left me in awe of this horse’s ability and fortitude and the training job turned in by Motion. As the field came to the head of the stretch, I had already resigned myself to the fact that Animal Kingdom was going to get nothing and would be extremely lucky to finish fourth or even fifth.

His troubles started after turning down the backstretch when Moonlight Cloud made an early run on his outside, trapping him down on the rail behind Willcox Inn. He tried to move with the French filly, but had nowhere to go and nearly ran up on Willcox Inn’s heels, steadying sharply and dropping about two lengths farther back and some eight lengths behind the pacesetting Obviously, who was being tracked by Suggestive Boy. Wise Dan, racing in third, was getting the perfect trip in the clear about two lengths off the lead.

Rafael Bejarano, who was not exactly having his best day, rushed him up right behind a wall of horses, some four lengths behind the leader. With Bejarano unable to ride him because of the traffic in front of him, Animal Kingdom had his momentum stopped again just as the first three kicked in for their final run. Animal Kingdom now found himself six lengths off the lead and down on the inside again as they approached the head of the stretch.

Turning for home, Animal Kingdom was pinned down on the rail with nowhere to go and only one horse behind him. Wise Dan had dead aim on Obviously and charged to the lead, with Animal Kingdom still trapped down on the inside behind Mr. Commons and his outside path sealed off by Excelebration. Animal Kingdom now had his head cocked to the outside as if he were looking for a way out. All Bejarano could do at this point was just sit on him and wait.

Winning was out of the question, as Wise Dan was beginning to draw clear of the field. At the eighth pole, Animal Kingdom was still back in sixth with nowhere to go. Finally, a hole opened between Mr. Commons and a rallying Excelebration and Animal Kingdom showed a burst of speed unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. He exploded past Excelebration and then Obviously and hit the wire 1 1/2 lengths behind Wise Dan, who was had broken the Santa Anita course record for a mile.

All Animal Kingdom did was run a mile in 1:31 4/5 off nearly a nine-month layoff, coming home his final eighth in a breathtaking :10 4/5 and final quarter in :22 1/5, despite not being able to run from the head of the stretch to inside the sixteenth pole.

It was heartwarming to hear the round of applause he was given as he returned following the race.

Several weeks after the Breeders’ Cup, Team Valor sold majority interest in Animal Kingdom’s breeding rights to the Australia-based Arrowfield Stud, where he will begin his stud career in September. Part of the agreement was that Team Valor continued to call the shots regarding the horse’s next three races – one race in Florida, the Dubai World Cup, and likely the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, although John Messara of Arrowfield has veto power regarding the Ascot race. Irwin wanted to assure the possibility of running at Ascot, but did not want to tie Arrowfield's hands if they were uncomfortable with it, so he left the final decision up to them.

After being given three months off, Animal Kingdom returned in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap as a prep for the Dubai World Cup, a race Irwin had been trying to win for several years. This time, he ran up against Point of Entry, winner of the Man o’ War, Sword Dancer, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and a fast-closing second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. With Joel Rosario riding him for the first time, he was rushed up prematurely and wound up battling for the lead way too early. He tried to fight off Point of Entry in the stretch, but had to settle for second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths. Although Rosario’s ride was counter-productive to the horse’s best running style, he did learn a lot about him and the early move and stiff test were just what the horse needed to set him up for the World Cup.

The event started out disastrously for the Americans and continued to get worse, with no one even coming close in the earlier races. Since the switch to Tapeta in 2010, not s single American horse was able to finish in the money in the World Cup.

Animal Kingdom would change all that. At Fair Hill, which has a Tapeta track, Bruce Jackson brought a large TV in the office and the majority of Motion’s crew came over to watch the race.

Although fellow Americans Royal Delta and Dullahan would finish in the rear of the field, Animal Kingdom would make history yet again. Breaking from post 12, Rosario was able to keep him in the clear, and while he did go about four-wide into the first turn, Animal Kingdom was running smoothly and settled in fourth, within striking distance of the pace-setting Royal Delta. Down the backstretch, he moved up into second and looked to be in total control. When Rosario asked him nearing the head of the stretch, he powered past Royal Delta and quickly opened a clear lead, changing leads right on cue. He was moving with such authority, it was obvious early in the stretch that no one was going to catch him.

Red Cadeaux made a big run along the inside, but Animal Kingdom was never in any danger of being caught, winning by two lengths. It was another 4 3/4 lengths back to Planteur in third. Royal Delta and Dullahan finished 10th and 11th, respectively.

A week later, Darley purchased 29% of Animal Kingdom, with their Kentucky farm to serve as the horse's Northern Hemisphere home. So, America has not seen the last of Animal Kingdom after all.

But for now it is time to temporarily bid farewell to one of the most gifted and mentally tough Thoroughbreds I’ve ever been around. Animal Kingdom likely will make his next start in the Queen Anne Stakes over a testing mile at Royal Ascot. Just another of the many challenges he has had to face.

Whatever he accomplishes from this point on, in England or in a final race in Australia, the name Animal Kingdom will always stir memories of a special horse who kept persevering and looking for new worlds to conquer.

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill - All photos by Steve Haskin

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill

Animal Kingdom at Fair Hill


Leave a Comment:


To stand in America for our season! YES!

03 Apr 2013 9:28 PM
El Kabong

Once again,

You have blown the doors of perception of their hinges. A very well thought out tribute to a wonderful athlete, who by the way, did not sell out to endorsements, or misbehave in the bars after his great victories. I hope my dog is reading this.

03 Apr 2013 9:34 PM

Beautiful storytelling, as usual.....truly an accomplished animal. Wanting all the best for his future and now with the news of Darley's interest.....perhaps we'll get to enjoy him here. Didn't realize his astounding time on the last half mile of Derby was second only to Big Red.  Loved this're the best Steve!  Happy Birthday!!!

03 Apr 2013 9:36 PM
El Kabong

Off their hinges. damn. go to bed Suzy, you not aloud to read this one.

03 Apr 2013 9:36 PM
kelso fan

What a wonderful tribute to an incredible horse!   Thanks Steve for another great article and thanks also for including your photos with so many of your columns.  

03 Apr 2013 10:05 PM

Wonderful story, Steve.  I was among the many who fell in love with this horse after his Breeder's Cup performance, and the many who were far from pleased to hear he'd been sold to Australia.  Thank goodness for Darley!  Not only is he brilliant and versatile, he's an outcross.  So glad he's going to stand here.

03 Apr 2013 10:20 PM

Bravo and Thank You, Animal Kingdom!

and thanks Steve - I have awaiting your words - bravo to you too.

03 Apr 2013 10:44 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thanks, Steve - I've been hoping you would write about Animal Kingdom. He really is a special horse and you've done him justice.

And a special thanks to Darley for making a way for him to come back to the States, even if it is as a shuttle. I hope AK will pass on his talent and his mindset to his offspring and that will be his ultimate win!

03 Apr 2013 10:59 PM

Thanks for the lovely collection of photos, Steve. AK is a truly gorgeous fellow. Hopefully, he will remain sound the rest of his racing career, and then become an important stallion. His pedigree brings some sorely needed freshness to the breed here. Except for that one distant cross of Northern Dancer, AK has a pedigree filled for well over 100 years with names we rarely, if ever, see in American pedigrees. The breed is desperately in need of hybrid vigor, and a stallion like AK is as close to a true outcross for our mares as is possible to find.

So here's to you, Animal Kingdom! Stay safe and come home to Kentucky where I hope you become this generation's top sire.

03 Apr 2013 11:13 PM

I had the pleasure of one lengthly conversation with Mr. Miller, at his barn. He didn't know me, but the topic was Red Ransom-who was still then Mr. Miller's trainee-and my group's interest in acquiring him. Mr. Miller was generous with his time during that conversation, and spoke candidly and openly. What a refreshing change from so many prominent trainers-including those given so much "press" respect-, both then and now. Mr. Miller was a gentleman.  

03 Apr 2013 11:45 PM
The Deacon

Brilliant story Steve. The way you word things makes me feel like I was there at each race. He is the best horse in training right now in my book. I always thought that if he had run in the Classic last year he would have won it.

I was hoping they would finish his career in the Classic this year but it doesn't sound like that's in the plans. I can only hope he is as good a sire as he is a race horse...........

03 Apr 2013 11:52 PM

I've never understood the criticism of Rosario's ride in the Gulfstream Park Turf Hcp. People seem to think Rosario got Animal Kingdom beat that day by taking first run. I think it was the only possible strategy. Point of Entry can come home with as many 11-&-change furlongs as he needs. Giving such a horse first run has little to recommend it. Point of Entry was better on the day, invulnerable to the only ploy that had a snowball's chance of beating him: steal a march and try to hold off his formidable close with a length or two in hand.

That wasn't Animal Kingdom's best day. I've been emoting all over this board about both of them for some time, nagging at people looking for a 3-year-old champion other than Animal Kingdom, drooling over the unveiling of the new untouchable Point of Entry finishing in 33 and change. I don't have a favorite between them, I'll leave it at "on the day."

I'm glad you went into the racing accident in which Animal Kingdom's hock was broken. I doubt that there's a cavalry war on the horizon and we don't have any pressing need to improve the breed, but I'd like to see it always made clear when a horse is stopped by a real accident as opposed to its own intrinsic and inheritable weaknesses.

Animal Kingdom's Belmont was one of those races . . . never forgotten. You remember those races where a horse decides it's time and circles a large field on the turn . . . *Carteret in the Hialeah Turf Cup, Secretariat more than once, Revolutionary last week . . . wonderful horses they turned out to be. I think I just talked myself into my Derby horse without waiting for the weekend.


04 Apr 2013 12:33 AM


I volunteered at the Breeder's Cup & was escorting Jeranimo's connections for the BC Mile.  I told them where I thought we should watch the race, which was to go stand midway up the steps of the staircase that is pretty much above where the winner's circle is.  You probably know what I'm talking about.  It's the best seat in the house at Santa Anita.  Anyway, I had pretty much given up on AK as I was seeing how bottled up he was.  As the final 1/16th was playing out, I let slip a "holy s#%t!!!" as Animal Kingdom exploded past the field as I have never seen anything like that in my experiences at the races!  I was in awe of the horse!  I must say, prior to the race, as I was in the walking ring with Jeranimo's folks, I watched Animal Kingdom as he was brought over to the paddock and as he walked past, I did exactly as Chris Cooper's character did in the movie, Seabiscuit, as the trainer, Tom Smith, seeing Seabiscuit for the first time, which, nicely put, was amazement!  I was so taken aback by his class.  I told myself, "he's going to pull this thing off'!"  It was just like someone said of Secretariat,"He was arrogant...he was the heavyweight champion of the world....and he knew it!"

It was an awesome experience!!!  He clearly stood out above all the horses I saw at the BC!  Royal Delta & Wise Dan probably follow after that but AK was in a class by himself!

Great article!

04 Apr 2013 12:35 AM

I have a pic of AK from the walking ring at SA before the race you may want to see.  From my iPhone.  

04 Apr 2013 12:40 AM

Animal Kingdom is not square on all four in any of these beautiful pictures; he's pointing left hind, standing under, pointing left fore and unweighting right fore.

Coincidence? He's still pencilled in for another race or two?

04 Apr 2013 12:41 AM
Greg R

Great to have a comprehensive summation of A K's career with pictures of his "down time."  He looks as if he lost three out of four white socks.  From his Derby on, I thought he was an above-average Kentucky Derby winner with limitless potential.  Glad he will be standing in America part-time, after all.  If he races again, I will be holding my breath and trying to jump out of my wheelchair.  By the way, where can one find a hyperbaric chamber, an Aqua Pacer or a cold saltwater spa?  If they did him that much good...........

04 Apr 2013 12:58 AM
spectacular bid

Steve, Great write up on AK. thanks,,as always. my story is similar with him, although with less time spent in person. i live in southern california so i had never seen AK in person until last year. i went to the track every morning to watch the works and to take pictures. Animal kingdom was on my short list of horse to see if for no other reason then we was an active derby winner. the first day i saw him(Tuesday or Wednesday, not sure). my first thought was WOW!! he galloped by with his neck arched, bulging muscle under a spectacular red coat. he had that "it" and from then on i was hooked. he was the horse i waited to see every day. i got lucky and have a few pics of him im really happy with. on BC day,i was again taking pictures and talking to people near by who asked if anyone had stood out all week. i said, yah, animal kingdom is the real deal.i was met with skepticism until his amazing run in the mile. when it was over, EVERYONE within ear shot in the stands was talking about AK, NOT wise dan. they were talking about only took a 1:32 mile to beat him. i was extremely disheartened to hear he wouldnt run all year in america..i felt cheated that i wouldnt see him again in person. knowing now that he will be at darly who regularly has an open house made my day knowing that perhaps someday i'll get to meet him..THANKS STEVE for saying what alot of us have thought for awhile: Animal Kingdom IS great!!

04 Apr 2013 12:59 AM


Is that his groom? What's his name?

04 Apr 2013 1:22 AM

The following is an excerpt from a posting I made in a blog hosted by LDP, the subject of which was changes must be made to enable Triple Crown winners.

"From what I've been reading, it seems the Germans are making good progress in breeding for stamina and durability. Among other things, if a horse has raced while on medications, it cannot be used for breeding. An infusion of German blood may help us get a TC champion worthy of the name in the not too distant future."

Liking his looks and way of going in the Spiral, Animal Kingdom impressed me as a Belmont horse. If he could prevail at the shorter distances of the Derby and Preakness then he would be a cinch for the TC. But it was not to be.

After his Derby win, I thought he was a lock for the Preakness. I was concerned Motion hadn't at least worked him at Pimlico before the race. During the race it seemed to me JV was a little late in realizing how much the pace had been slowed down. In the Belmont, he was slammed at he start in an incident caused by Maragh, who was incensed because of a jocky switch and was set down for it.

Animal Kingdom was as ready as any

horse could be in modern times to win the TC. All the more reason to get frustrated when it doesn't occur.

04 Apr 2013 1:37 AM
The Peacock

Thank you for this tribute to Animal Kingdom, Steve. He deserves it. The Breeder's Cup highlight for me in 2012 also.

04 Apr 2013 3:20 AM
Barry Irwin

Beautiful job Steve.

Couple of things:

1. A decision about which race to run in at Ascot has not been made, but the mile Queen Anne on a straight opening day is more likely at this point than the Prince of Wales.

2. Team Valor International is still managing AK through the Ascot race. John Messara has veto power against running at Ascot if he so chooses.

In crafting the original deal, I wanted to make sure that a race at Ascot was possible, but I didn't want to tie Arrowfield's hands if they were uncomfortable with the idea. They will stand the horse, so I left the final decision up to Mr. Messara.

In entering stud, the most important aspect of a horse's career is the impression they leave their audience with.

Right now Animal Kingdom would leave with a glowing repuration. Running him at Ascot, especially under conditions he has never experienced (straightaway), is risky.

So John and I agree that unless Graham Motion is absolutely thrilled with how the horse is handling the conditions, he will not run. We want to run, but we don't want to race AK under conditions that will be against him.

04 Apr 2013 4:58 AM
El Kabong

Happy BIrthday Steve!

All the best Oats to you on this day my good man.

04 Apr 2013 6:19 AM

Mr. Haskin, I don't know how I missed that Darley had bought the 29% of AK?? But, anyway, you just made my day...and year, for that matter! And as Mr. Motion would say, "I love that BEAST"!

04 Apr 2013 8:17 AM

Thank you for a great essay. Have been committed to Animal Kingdom since before his Kentucky Derby and never lost faith that he is, indeed, one of the rare ones -- much more important than many in American racing today will ever recognize. (For a while, I used some people's opinions of him as a barometer: were they horsemen, or just handicappers? The horsemen pretty much always acknowledged his potential, while the handicappers were often dim, LOL.)

Very well done. Another example of why you're the best.

04 Apr 2013 8:17 AM

Cassandra.Says - these photos are from last summer at Fair Hill. I don't know that there is any significance to his not standing squarely, plenty of horses just don't, but his spectacular performances in the three races he has run since these photos were taken leads one to believe he's doing just fine. :)

04 Apr 2013 8:18 AM

What an awesome article! I have been involved with AK and the article is a definitive history.Steve your writing and knowledge make the magic of horse racing real.Thank you.

04 Apr 2013 8:25 AM

Another great article, Steve, and great pictures.  Thanks!

I will second what Big_Red_4ever posted with some of the others. Having Animal Kingdom standing in the US hopefully will infuse his outcross into some of our better mares and produce some truly Classic racehorses.  This is something our US breeding will benefit from in spite if its self.

I don't think we'll see any Animal Kingdom 2 year olds at the "speed for greed" Ocala Breeders Sale of 2yo in training or the same at Keeneland.

A big thanks to Darley, also, for keeping him here, available to NA breeders. BRAVO!  

04 Apr 2013 8:42 AM

Excellent article about a wonderful horse! Thanks for the great pictures,I have loved this horse for a long time and great to see such a tribute to him. All the best for his future,can't wait to see his foals!

04 Apr 2013 9:00 AM

Thanks for a fitting tribute to the brilliant Animal Kingdom. After he won the Derby so impressively, I thought he had a real chance to win the Triple Crown. Even though that didn't happen, he's turned in some truly memorable performances since then in both victory and defeat. Here's hoping he ends his racing career a winner at Royal Ascot.

04 Apr 2013 9:37 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Luckily Darley has come to the rescue so that Animal Kingdom can have a kingdom here also, otherwise it was very disappointing that we had lost another potentially great sire to overseas and in this case one who can put some much needed stamina into the breed. We have known for a long time about Animal Kingdom's talent and were hopeful about his return and a march to greatness. Despite the injuries he still had the chance to join the list of the greatest names in racing history but it was the allure of a quick sale to the breeders tha stopped it, not injuries. With the strong Derby and World Cup wins and the strong BC MIle race under his belt we wanted to see him continue on to win the Breeder's Cup Classic, and maybe even the Arc along with many other magnificent wins including a defense of his World Cup. He could have been but it's still a might have been in some respects. I applaud his talent and tremendous wins and efforts and versatility but am disappointed we couldn't see more. He sadly won't be able to be added to the list of the greatest simply because of the allure of the quick buck over the long term quest for riches and glory which would have been even greater without a career ending injury. It would have been a gamble to continue but the odds would have been worth it to me. How many horses to we see that have the opportunity to join the legends of the past?

04 Apr 2013 9:41 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Try another 10-20 million in race purses and then 30-50 million plus in a bredding sale if he'd continued on and won the Arc, BC Classic, and another World Cup, although Team Valor could have retained him and bred him themselves at that point or in a partnership.

04 Apr 2013 9:46 AM
Luis Triana

Back when he won the Derby I wrote this (in spanish) about this magnificent animal...just tribute:


Recientemente recibi un email sobre la Globalizacion en donde ponia como ejemplo a la Princesa Diana asi:

Una Princesa Britanica, con novio Egipcio, choca en un tunel Frances, mientras iba en un carro Aleman, manejado por un Belga, que habia tomado whisky Escoces, seguidos por un paparazzi Italiano, manejando una motocicleta Japonesa, que le vendia fotos a las revistas Españolas, tomadas con una camara hecha en Taiwan.

Animal Kingdom, el reciente ganador del Derby de Kentucky, 2o. en el Preakness Stakes y favorito para ganar el Belmont Stakes el proximo fin de semana, es el ejemplo equino de dicha globalizacion:

Su padre, Leroidesanimaeux, es nacido en Brazil, hijo de un caballo Frances, que presto sus servicios en Argentina, y de una yegua Inglesa, cuyo padre Ahoonoora siempre estuvo en Irlanda y cuya linea materna esta enraizada en Estados Unidos desde mediados del siglo 19.

Su madre, Dalicia, nacio en Alemania pero fue exportada al Japon, y es hija de el gran Acatenango, leyenda de las pistas Alemanas, cuyo padre Surumu era hijo de Aleman con ascendencia Francesa e Inglesa, y de una yegua Britanica. La madre de Dalicia, es hija de Gringo con alguna sangre Australiana con Alemana de ascendencia Hungara!

04 Apr 2013 10:23 AM
Proud Acres

Don't know what to say except am really glad he'll also be standing in America!  Great horse

04 Apr 2013 10:44 AM

Once again thank you so much for another wonderful article.By the way may you have a wonderful birthday and enjoy with all your dear ones.

04 Apr 2013 11:09 AM

I worried how he would run in the Breeders Cup without a race in him after such a long layoff. Then he gave such a glittering run it was all I could think about. In the World Cup I worried the surface would defeat him like it had so many others. He made wallpaper of that field and went from racehorse to myth in a matter of minutes.

04 Apr 2013 11:19 AM

Those photos are simply candid shots of a horse out grazing; not being posed for conformation photos. He looks like every other horse who isn't being stood up by a professional handler.

04 Apr 2013 11:35 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks for your comments, Barry. I was going by what the articles said. I have made the appropriate changes to the story. The Prince of Wales's at 1 1/4 miles seemed more likely that the one-mile Queen Anne, but I think this horse can win at any distance. Darley made a lot of people very happy, knowing we're going tpo get to see him again. Looks like a fantastic deal for everyone involved.

It was a great ride. Now best of luck with Crop Report and Cerro.

All the best,


04 Apr 2013 11:56 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and comments and birthday wishes. I have to admit, that was a fun story to write.

04 Apr 2013 11:57 AM

I agree he should be retired now...ending his career on such a high note. Why risk a serious injury or another set of fracutures that he might not be so lucky with this time.

I say count your blessings with AK, retire him and bring him home for the rest of the year for R&R before going to the breeding shed.

04 Apr 2013 11:59 AM

Thanks for the comments, Barry.

04 Apr 2013 12:21 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I'm really not seeing the point of running at Royal Ascot. Wouldn't that be an expected win so how much do you really gain? Nothing. He is already going to be a highly sought after sire. I could see running him at Royal Ascot if he was going to continue racing. Leave it at a World Cup champion. With a little luck he could have been a Triple Crown winner too. Really quite a talent and I am looking forward to seeing his offspring run in this country. How do Zenyatta and Animal Kingdom matchup?

04 Apr 2013 12:32 PM

Another wonderful piece to earmark and refer back to in the future. Thanks for the added bonus of the photos.  AK is just so handsome!

And belated Happy Birthday wishes!

04 Apr 2013 12:33 PM
Pedigree Ann

Leroidesanimaux was an outcross to 5 generations. His damline came out of Florida, the Isaacs' Brookfield Farm (he named all his homebreds with initial Is). Farther back it goes back through SP Genevra M. and Adirondack S winner Tangle (full sister to Belmont S winner Tanya) to the brilliant 2yo Spinaway, after whom the race is named.

Dalicia has ancestors from all over Europe as well as the US. She even has Man o' War in her ancestry, through the War Relic son Relic, who stood in France. Two of Tesio's good runners who didn't have a profile in Fra/GB/Ire breeding, Caran d'Ache and Apelle show up here. And a surprising number of Hungarian ancestors.

Before WWI, Hungarian breeding and racing was among the best on the Continent. It still had some viability between the wars, but WWII and its aftermath nearly wiped out Hungarian breeding stock. A few good strains remained, as did some strains exported to Britain, France and Germany. Thus we find Animal Kingdom carrying strains of the outstanding stallion Pazman (the top sire in the 1920s and 30s) and Imi (Magyar Derby winner, won 10 of 11, sire of the great Imperial, the foundation of modern Hungarian breeding). Plus multiple crosses of the mare Winnica, who was in a German stud.

Winnica, of course, was tail-female to the immortal Kincsem, as is the recent British champion Camelot. Animal Kingdom has four lines to Kincsem (one through her son Talpra Magyar, a sire). Interesting coincidence that he and Camelot showed up so close in time.

04 Apr 2013 12:59 PM
Susan from VA

I am a big fan of Animal Kingdom and Graham Motion. Thank you for a great article and the pictures from Fair Hill - I was hoping that you would write a tribute to Animal Kingdom. You did and it was great to read!

04 Apr 2013 1:08 PM

What a great story and commemorative essay of a huge horse. He is what legends are made of. Wishing him all the best and safe trip and a win at the Queen Anne and beyond. Love him.

04 Apr 2013 1:34 PM

STEVE Thank you so much for such a complete picture of this amazing horse . Back in 2011 after the Preakness and  Belmont the press began to question Animal Kingdom's ability even suggesting that he won the Derby only because the Derby crop of 2011 was substandard They further demeaned not only his accomplishments but those of Shackleford by elevating in the Eclipse Voting Caleb's Posse to within a precious few votes of 3 year old champion. HIstory has proven that not only was this crop not inferior but the most productive crop of the 21 st Century and Animal Kingdom has demonstrated that he is the true champion of that crop. Thanks for setting the record straight.

04 Apr 2013 1:42 PM

This is a well-deserved tribute to a spectacular horse. I agree that his loss in the Breeder's Cup was the highlight of all the Breeder's Cup races. His performance that day was brilliant. Thank you, Steve, for spotlighting this incredible horse. And happy birthday!

04 Apr 2013 1:46 PM

STEVE Great job capturing this wonderful journey with such and amazing horse. AFter the Derby while basking in the glow of victory a writer approached me to congratulate me on being fortunate enough to own a piece of the winner. Then he quickly switched to how lucky we were to have been able to get Johnny V to ride our horse. My instant response was that as much as I value Johnny V and his ability and yes it was a fine ride I quickly pointed out it was the horse that won the race. JohnnyV was the 5 th different rider in the 5 race career of  Animal  Kingdom and he was first or second in every start. The rider pattern has continued to present As Joel is the 7 th Rider in 11 starts. IN DUbai Joel said it best " THe horse led me I just went along for the ride"  Steve what other Champion Horse has had to endure that many rider changes????

04 Apr 2013 2:03 PM

Pedigree aAn, I doubt that very many of these readers know who Kincsem was - thank you for your insight on the pedigree. I am so grateful that Sheik Mo's Darley was interested in assuring American breeders an opportunity with AK. I hope he is booked to some quality mares. We need an infusion of European stamina.

If the owners want to run at Royal Ascot, and the horse is sound and ready, why not? I am looking forward to seeing him run once more, especially at such a prestigious event. I wish I had the disposable income to fly over and be there in person.

And, finally, you gotta love arm-chair DVMs second guessing a trainer like Graham Motion through a set of photos...priceless!

04 Apr 2013 2:03 PM
The Deacon

Dr. D:  I always wanted to see Zenyatta matched up with Giant's Causeway but your match-up would work.

04 Apr 2013 2:18 PM

Nice article, many thanks. It's sad we have to "defend" horses like Animal Kingdom. Fans today tend to expect too much from bleeding breathing creatures that tear through the ground with 120 pounds on their back. Just before the World Cup I read a comment directed towards Animal Kingdom that slated him as being overhyped and not "all that and a bag of chips". I would've liked to respond but guess you did it for me. Thanks again.

04 Apr 2013 2:24 PM
Karen in Indiana

Dr. D, the only real reason I could see for running him at Ascot is the possibility of him being the only horse at stud who would have Grade I victories on dirt, turf & synthetic. Lava Man has accomplished that, but he's a gelding. It might help attract more European mares.

04 Apr 2013 3:51 PM

first off, I must thank the british bookies that had animal kingdom at 11/2 to win in dubai. thank you for paying for my summer holiday.

animal kingdom is a unique horse for me. do you know how impossible it is to win on dirt, tapeta and turf at group 1 level. please let him run at royal ascot. both us racing and ascot deserve to see this fantastic horse at ascot. I want to see more international racing with champions like animal kingdom racing all over the world. all credit to motion and the owners for doing it.  

04 Apr 2013 4:24 PM
Linda in Texas

Condolences to Mr. Brereton Jones of Airdrie Stud Farm for the loss of your good fella Slew City Slew, wonderful sire of our favorite also, Lava Man.  

Slew City Slew certainly favored his sire, Seattle Slew. My all time favorite for his will to live as long as he did. Love and miss them all.    

Rest in Peace Slew City Slew. And thank you for the memories.


04 Apr 2013 6:39 PM

Thank you for the wonderful article and photos on Animal Kingdom!  I had no idea who Animal Kingdom was going into the Derby but I have followed all his races since.  I love the way he runs and know that he is such an extremely talented horse who should get way more credit.  Please keep us posted on any news on this wonderful horse!

04 Apr 2013 8:06 PM
Barry Irwin

Dr. D: the reason the mile race at Ascot was chosen early on as the probable career finale is that a) Arrowfield wanted to stand him in 2013 and b) the Queen Anne is a race that Australian breeders hold in high regard.

04 Apr 2013 9:33 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Karen in Indiana

  That's true but his second in the BC Mile is nearly the same as a win. If you look at it in print for yeears to come then it does make a difference that it would be a win. I just don't think more race is going to make him anymore attractive to breeders than he is now. At this point I wouldn't take the risk.

The Deacon

   That's a good one that you mentioned. I also like Midnight Lute and Zenyatta. Popular girl as always. Irreplaceable on the track. Those were some really special days. I hope to be around to see the youngins perform. Triple Crown !!!! Zenyatta's BC win and Secretariat's Belmont are my favorite races, then Affirmed's Belmont. In order.

04 Apr 2013 9:42 PM
Paula Higgins

A really wonderful article on a great horse. Yes, a great horse. He always struck me as a horse who was capable of bursts of brilliance. You never knew when it would happen, but you knew it would. Many of us on this site have been fans of AK for awhile. His race in Dubai was spectacular. If he doesn't race at Ascot that's just fine. Like everyone else, I am thrilled he is standing in the U.S. Congraulations to Mr. Irwin and all his connections. I love the straight on pictures of his face Steve. He seems to be very intelligent.

04 Apr 2013 10:40 PM

A lovely tribute to Animal Kingdom Steve.  I just love Animal Kingdom and I am fortunate I saw him once, in that Belmont.  He is a modern-day great and a true champion in my book.  He is one of my equine heroes for sure.  I'm glad Darley will stand him.  His multi-surface accomplishments are amazing and I put him into the category of one of the most amazing animals ever.  

I like the fact that Fair Hill has a Tapeta training surface, that answers one of my questions from the other blog about Americans winning in Dubai.

All hail Animal Kingdom, king of all the animals!

05 Apr 2013 12:19 AM

Linda in Texas,

Happy Birthday to you!!!!!!

Linda's birthday is Friday, the 5th.

05 Apr 2013 12:21 AM
Eight paws

Thank you Steve for a brilliant story on a magnificent champion. I agree with the above poster, allow the horse to run at ascot. He deserves the chance to once again go down in the history books as being the 1st Kentucky derby winner to win at RA. Although, personally, i would love to see him match up against camelot in the prince of wales stake. If Graham can get AK to is form in the breeders cup mile and world cup, NOONE is beating him!. AK is immensely explosive around bends and would beat the pants off of camelot if given the chance. The grade 1 wins on all three surfaces will also put him into the very elite category and watch his stud fees sky rocket. He will be the most sought after stallion in the world. Animal kingdom has every right to be mentioned among the greatest, just give him the chance to do it.

Wherever he goes, I will among his MANY followers!

05 Apr 2013 6:31 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Barry Irwin

   Thank you very much for your response and all of the other posts you've made. I appreciate it. It does help to have the information before forming and stating opinions. It makes more sense now, however I'd still be a little leary but then again I always am for a final race prior to stud. Good luck to Animal Kingdom, continued success with your excellent operation, and with your new(old coming back) trainer in the coming years.

05 Apr 2013 1:23 PM
Bethany Loftis

Thanks Steve for another great article!!! There's always been something about Animal Kingdom that I liked, but I couldn't quite explain it until I finally saw a picture of him without blinkers on for the first time. Then it hit me, he is the exact spitting image of my 16-year old gelding! Even has the same great stride! The only thing missing is another sock on his back left :)

Thanks Mr. Irwin for taking the time out of your busy schedule to respond on these blogs! Your time is greatly appreciated! I'm so thrilled, like everyone else, that this great horse will be standing in America part time! Thank you, thank you to all parties involved on making this happen! Good luck Mr. Irwin and Animal Kingdom! Go strut your stuff in Ascot and win it all!

05 Apr 2013 1:26 PM
Pedigree Ann

Linda -

When I started looking to buy a mare, Slew City Slew was one of the stallions I had hoped to be able to use. A real racehorse sire. Unfortunately he was retired that fall. A member of my Blue-Collar Stallion Hall of Fame. He will be missed.

05 Apr 2013 1:42 PM
kevin blair

Steve, thanks again for another special column...fantastic writing. You truly hit the nail on the proverbial head. As a partner in several Team Valor horses, my family and I had the pleasure of visiting with Animal Kingdom during one of his rehabs at Fair Hill. We had traveled there to see our horses(which unfortunately did not include AK as I was obviously too stupid), but did include Howe Great which was stabled near AK. As we entered the barn, Megan from Team Valor said, " You're going to see Animal Kingdom over there and he is going to want your fact he expects or demands it!" Sure enough, there he stood , our eyes meeting and you knew right then...this guy knows..He's the One! He is one tremendous physical specimen ...and with personality to boot. We spent alot of time with him that day as he is a true sweetheart...thanks again Steve!

05 Apr 2013 1:45 PM
Paula Higgins

Kinscem, I think all of us probably

know who Kinscem was. One of the greatest horses of modern times and the greatest female horse  (maybe greatest female or male) of the 19th century.

I was surprised to see that Graham Motion won't be training Team Valor horses. I am glad that he will still train AK until he is retired. It seems to be a very amicable parting and having one trainer dedicated to their own horses seems reasonable.

Happy Birthday Linda in Texas.

Dr Drunkinbum, my list in order of favorite races: Zenyatta's 2009 BC, Zenyatta's 2010 BC, Secretariat's Belmont, Secretariat's Preakness, Seattle Slew's Triple Crown races, Affirmed/Alydar Belmont, Rags to Riches Belmont, Sesbiscuit vs War Admiral match race, Animal Kingdom's Dubai, Spectacular Bid's first 2 legs of the Triple Crown, Black Caviar's William Reid, Smarty Jone's first 2 legs of the Triple Crown................the list could go on and on.

05 Apr 2013 3:18 PM
Jean in Chicago

Dr. D,  True Nicks rates Zenyatta X Animal Kingdom 'A'.

Kincsem:  Not knowing about Kincsem is a shame.  That's why I keep recommending people go back and look up some of these truly great horses from the past.  Try Sceptre, Imp, St. Simon.  Check generations back in pedigrees for horses that keep reappearing.   The breeders back in the day (WAY back)  weren't stupid.  Tesio did a lot of back crossing to St. Simon to finally get Nearco,  although I'm a great believer in outcrossing, especially these days when we can sure use some more distance ability in thoroughbreds.  If you want to watch sprints, go see quarter horses (many of whom are being bred to thoroughbreds).

Although I'd like to see AK at Ascot, I worry every time anybody steps on the track.  So maybe just send him off to visit the ladies and have some fun bouncing around the paddock.

05 Apr 2013 4:21 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Paula Higgins

  Rags to Riches Belmont and Mine That Bird Derby are maybe 4th and 5th for me. Rags was a big "She did it !!!!!!" celebration. Most of Zenyatta's races are right up there because of the way she did it.

Jean in Chicago

  "A" is good. I try not to worry too much when they race but it's always there somewhere. A safe race always feels good.

05 Apr 2013 7:06 PM

Thank you, Steve, for a wonderful tribute to Animal Kingdom's career. You put the heart in sports writing, pal!

05 Apr 2013 7:21 PM
Past The Grandstand

As usual, absolutely outstanding job, Mr. Haskin! Your tweet after the Dubai World Cup that read, "If anyone still doubted it, it's official. Animal Kingdom is a great horse who could have been one of the all-time greats if he stayed sound," rang many bells of truth and this article detailed that statement beautifully. What Animal Kingdom has accomplished up to this point is extraordinary, having captured America's most coveted race and the world's richest horse race. It will be exciting to see what the remainder of his career holds. What Animal Kingdom has shown is one-of-a-kind brilliance that should be cherished and remembered forever. Thank you for this wonderful article, Mr. Haskin!

Mary Cage

05 Apr 2013 7:30 PM
Linda in Texas

Hope BigTex can email his photo of Animal Kingdom at Santa Anita.

Did you know you can take that to CVS and make an 8 x 10 with it? I sure would. I did one of my brother's 4 dogs on their morning walk and it came out beautifully.

Walking to the Race in Dubai he was observing everything as i caught a glimpse of him and i truly feel he knew it was an important race. He was so well groomed, his caregivers sent him out to win, he knew it and he brought them the trophy. And a dollar and a half to boot. His composure was even more noticeable after the race. So well behaved. Just a delightful horse to observe.

(And i learned from HRTV that it takes the American Horses 1 hour to walk from their barn in Dubai to the gates.) What does that take out of them???

PLUS and this is the biggest treat of his win imo. He brought some well deserved respect to the owners and trainers of 'our horses.' His win brought a flush over my face and my heart skipped a couple of beats. He was awesome. Just no other words. And having him race in England is the greatest advertisement in the world for American Thoroughbred Racing and will also help show off his talents and style to others across the pond. Now i just pray he travels well both in the air and on the track and stays sound.

Steve, thank you for a good good article. I felt like a bunch of us were on the floor surrounding you sitting in an easy chair telling this from your wonderful memories off the top of your head. Very nice and it is real. Favorite photo is the second one. He has such a beautifully honed and chiseled head, simply regal.  

I say ol' chaps, bring on the high top hats,the strawberries and

cream and maybe even a nod from Elizabeth The Queen!

I must not forget to mention Royal Delta. She is to be admired, she did herself proud. So sometimes i call her Proud Delta.

Such thoughtful people come here to roost and preen their feathers. My day does not officially begin until i check here first. We may not always agree but everyone gets their chance to say how they feel.

And we all seem to accept those with whom we disagree. And that is as it should be. Thanks Steve. Safe racing to all involved this week end.

05 Apr 2013 9:43 PM
Greg R

Since Animal Kingom's daddy was a crack turf miler, it makes sense to let the son's last race be a turf mile.  True, the Queen Annne is what they call a "stiff mile," because of the lay of the land, but A K has that covered, stamina-wise, as a multiple Gr I winner at 1 1/4.  If he's right on the day, it could prove his best race.

Drunkinbum: I've been plugging Midnight Lute as a match for Zenyatta for a long time, via comment sites!!  Glad for the backup!  AFTER she visits Awesome Again, because he's older (isn't he still standing?).

06 Apr 2013 12:33 AM

I fell for this horse at the end of the Kentucky Derby. First, he was running very green, almost as much back and forth as forward, yet was pulling away from the others. Then, after the finish line, you could see his ears still pricked and his eyes wide open. He wanted to keep racing.

06 Apr 2013 4:40 PM
Ted from LA

4-8-7 box every way until Sunday in the Wood.

06 Apr 2013 6:25 PM
Paula Higgins

Yes, to Mine That Bird Dr Drunkinbum. His story and his connection's story are so unique and wonderful. I guess Zenyatta's two BCC's will top my list forever. I seriously doubt anything is going to top them. Kind of wish Animal Kingdom would ruun in the BCC this year.

06 Apr 2013 9:19 PM
Needler in Virginia

I would guarantee that the possibility of Animal Kingdom's running at Ascot, or any other damn place Messr's Irwin and Motion think appropriate, has been evaluated, considered, mulled, contemplated, cussed, discussed, dissected, reassembled, strategized, planned, RE-planned, dreamed and fantasized. In the end, I trust the horse will be handled as beautifully by Arrowfield and Darley as he always has been by Team Valor. When you hold lightning in your hands, you never EVER treat it as just another rainy day.

Cheers and safe trips.

06 Apr 2013 11:20 PM

I noticed that Animal Kingdom has High Line in his pedigree, I remember him running in the late 1960's as I was always interested in Hyperion-line horses. As he excelled over long distance races such as 2 miles, his opportunities as a stallion must have been very limited indeed but surprisingly he appears in the pedigrees of modern day stallions such as Thunder Gulch, Dubawi & Dansili as well as Leroidesanimaux.

Sookera was a champion two year old in Ireland.

The mating of these two horses High Line and Sookera gave us the grand dam of both Dansili and Leroidesanimaux  

07 Apr 2013 8:33 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Needler in Virginia

   Good point.

07 Apr 2013 9:48 AM
Karen in Indiana
07 Apr 2013 11:04 AM

You nailed it, Steve!  Perfection, that what Animal Kingdom is.  I was SO pleased to see he won the Dubai World Cup. He deserved it.  He also deserves the stand at stud here in America and I was doubly ecstatic when I read Darley has bought a 29% interest in him and will stand him here in KY!  HOORAY!

07 Apr 2013 11:45 AM


Great tribute to one of my favorites, Animal Kingdom. You are unsurpassed in writing about both the present and past of thoroughbred racing.

Just a note for newer fans on the 2 groups of greats that you mentioned.It reminds us that the amazing Kelso would uniquely fit into both groups.If retired after a couple of full racing seasons, as the near perfect group, he would have exited with exactly Secretariat's won - loss record with the same 2 HOY awards. Plus an 11 race win streak, surpassed only by Man O WAR on your list.Then in his second career, from 5 to 7 yrs old when injuries are part of the job, he matches Forego's 3 HOY awards. Plus he closes out his 5th HOY season with the near impossible. Kelso wins the definitive year end races on both dirt and grass. These only 11 days apart, at 2 & 1.5 miles and both in alltime record time!

07 Apr 2013 11:51 AM

Thank you Steve for this wonderful tribute to a horse that I think could have done so much more if not for his two freek injuries. The owners and Trainer get a lot of credit from me for bringing him back to the races and not sendiing him to the Breeding shed early. I hope he kicks butt at Ascot!

07 Apr 2013 9:42 PM

Karen in Indiana:  with the Olympics coming up soon, why not next cosider putting Animal Kingdom on skis and enter him in the Downhill?  Considering his background however, it would be tough to pick a flag for him to walk into the stdium behind on the first day.  i would suggest they use the Olympic Flag.  Heck, the flag bearer could just ride into the sodium ON him.

(Ain't April 1st news items grand?)

p.s.  Yay for Monty Python fans!  I could see photo-shopping AK into the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch or maybe exchange him for the cat in the Confuse A Cat sketch.  

07 Apr 2013 10:24 PM

Hi Steve,

OMG - Such an eloquent column about my beloved Animal Kingdom.  I am so proud of him!  You caught the very essence of Animal Kingdom - his power, his versatility, his majesty, his star power in any race he is in, his superior qualities, which are always on display.  Animal Kingdom's second place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile was one of the Top 10 race performances I have ever been privileged to witness personally - it was an incredible, eye-popping effort.  To improve upon that race is astounding, but improve he did in his Dubai World Cup victory.  Staying loyal to Animal Kingdom through his injuries and through all of the vile name-calling and abuse heaped on Animal Kingdom AND his supporters by misguided fans of other horses on other racing websites has been totally worth everything we had to go through to support this wonderful horse.  I always saw greatness whenever I looked at Animal Kingdom (the same is true of I'll Have Another, too).  Animal Kingdom is a superhorse - he can handle dirt, tapeta (synthetic), grass - and win over all of those surfaces.  He's one of the most powerfully-built horses I've seen.  He looks like a proud Greek statue, all muscles and regalness.  It's an honor to be his fan and supporter!

Thank you, Steve, for another magnificent article.  You are a very gifted, very intuitive journalist.  BTW - I also loved the beautiful pictures of Animal Kingdom.  Thank you for including them with your article.

08 Apr 2013 4:37 PM

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