Americans Abroad

(By Avalyn Hunter)

Animal Kingdom's quest to become the first grade or group I winner on three different surfaces--and on three different continents to boot--fizzled ingloriously June 18 in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot. Nonetheless, it was a noble attempt and a sporting gesture by the colt's owners. It was also one of the relatively few occasions on which an older American-bred horse based and trained outside Europe has appeared at one of Europe's marquee race meets. While Wesley Ward is becoming something of a Royal Ascot regular in the juvenile races, America's best 3-year-olds and older horses seldom are seen abroad other than in Dubai and at the Japan Cup.

Part of the issue is timing. Because the World Cup falls relatively early in the racing calendar and the Japan Cup is usually several weeks after the Breeders' Cup, an American runner can travel to either and still make an appearance in the Breeders' Cup--an important consideration for a horse in the hunt for a championship. Even if a horse comes home from the trip to Dubai worse for wear, the animal can have several months to freshen up and still get in a prep race prior to the Breeders' Cup. A trip to Royal Ascot or Glorious Goodwood might not faze some horses at all, but a travel-worn horse would be on a much tighter schedule to make the Breeders' Cup. As for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamp and the Champions Day meeting at Newmarket, both effectively rule out the Breeders' Cup.

Another issue is the difficulty of prepping a horse for races on courses that often bear little resemblance to the completely level left-handed ovals seen in American racing. European courses can have turns in either direction and both uphill and downhill stretches and are difficult to prepare for without actually being there. It also helps to have a jockey who is familiar with the course, though in Animal Kingdom's case, the presence of John Velazquez in the saddle as opposed to one of the leading English riders probably made little difference.

There is no question that American-breds can still be competitive in Europe; one need look no further for proof than Queen Anne victor Declaration of War, a Kentucky-bred whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were all bred in North America with the sole exception of French-bred great-grandsire Blushing Groom. His victory is a welcome advertisement for the value of American bloodstock in the world market and demonstrates that American horses can compete at the top levels anywhere without needing medication. Nonetheless, Declaration of War trains in Europe. That is the most common scenario for American horses abroad for good reason and doubtless will remain so. Nonetheless, it would be nice to see a few more American owners and trainers taking up the challenges that Animal Kingdom's connections and Wesley Ward have tackled, both for the sheer sport of it and for the value of each victory to the market for American horses.


Leave a Comment:

Pedigree Ann

Back in the inter war era, Kentucky Derby winners who went to Britain to race went for the whole season and were trained by Britons.

Reigh Count won the Coronation Cup over the Derby course and was second in the Gold Cup.

Omaha won two races in Britain at 4 (they are no longer run so one has difficulty figuring out their status) and was beaten in a controversial close finish (no photo-finish cameras then) to the filly Quashed in the Gold Cup.

20 Jun 2013 10:58 AM

it's a real shame things didn't work out for animal kingdom. I realise the schedule doesn't fit for us horses to race in europe off the cuff so to speak. but this is definitely not the case for animal kingdom. he has been there 3 months. he could have had a prep race at any course in the uk to get him ready for the undulations and a straight mile.

I do not believe the onwer's claim that the horse was just, well, horny and lost interest. he didn`t run his race but I reckon it was down to bad preparation. just like when the euros first came to the breeders cup. ak is a great horse but badly prepared for the ascot race. not so easy this pond hopping busines is it?

20 Jun 2013 6:51 PM

Nice article. I agree, the connections of Animal Kingdom deserve a lot of credit for the sporting gesture. The turf was perhaps too soft for his liking. I'd like to see Wise Dan engage those Euros on their soft turf next year if he remains on top of his game ...he, even more than Animal Kingdom, is a beast on any surface.

20 Jun 2013 7:40 PM

Recent Posts

More Blogs