(Originally published in the April 6, 2013 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
By Eric Mitchell - @BH_EMitchell on Twitter
Some American racing fans likely got their backs up as the Australian national anthem played March 30 in honor of Animal Kingdom’s victory in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I).
After all, here was our American-bred Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner being feted on one of international racing’s biggest stages without so much as a glimpse of the Stars and Stripes. Arrowfield Stud’s owner John Messara, however, bought a 75% interest in the American champion along with the breeding rights prior to the World Cup, so he’s entitled to have his native Australia’s anthem played.
The truth is, though, Animal Kingdom is the world’s horse. Though bred in Kentucky, the son of Leroidesanimaux has horses bred in five other countries within the first three generations of his pedigree. Leroidesanimaux (now standing at HallMarc Stallions at Stonewall Farms near Ocala, Fla.) was bred in Brazil, his grandsire Blushing Groom was bred in France, and his dam, Dissemble, was bred in Great Britain. Animal Kingdom’s dam, Dalicia, was bred in Germany and is out of the Irish-bred mare Dynamis.
The 5-year-old Animal Kingdom was bred and raced by Barry Irwin’s Team Valor International before being sold to Messara.
While it is difficult to watch America’s champions go to farms overseas, being owned by Messara puts Animal Kingdom in a good spot to accomplish something no other horse has done—win a grade/group I stakes on four continents. This feat will be possible only if Messara follows through with a comment published March 31 in The Daily Telegraph: that the World Cup winner could continue racing for another 12 months.
The immediate goal is Royal Ascot, where Animal Kingdom will be aimed in mid-June for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) or the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I). If the striking chestnut wins at Ascot, then he joins St Nicholas Abbey, Invasor, and Singspiel in having won a grade/group I race on three continents.
St Nicholas Abbey just passed this milestone March 30 when he won the Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines (UAE-I) on the World Cup card. The son of Montjeu has also won three group I races in Europe (Racing Post Trophy, Investec Coronation Cup, and the Investec Diamond Jubilee Cup, all in England) and won the 2011 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. Invasor won three group I races in Uruguay in 2005 before he was shipped to the U.S. in 2006 where he roared through four grade I stakes, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic-Powered by Dodge. He went on to win the 2007 Dubai World Cup. Singspiel won his first grade I in the 1996 Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine Race Course and finished the year with a win in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I). In 1997 Singspiel won the group I Vodafone Coronation Cup Stakes at Epsom and the Juddmonte International Stakes at York.
If Animal Kingdom wins at Royal Ascot, then the road forks for Messara.
Down one path is retirement, but the other offers a special opportunity. Racing NSW (New South Wales), of which Messara is chairman, is planning a Breeders’ Cup World Championships-style meeting in the fall at Royal Randwick. The meet will include the $2 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Aus-I), run at 2,000 meters—the same distance as the World Cup and comparable to the Kentucky Derby.
“In my heart of hearts, I’d like to see him in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes; it would be an ideal race,” Messara told The Daily Telegraph. “He likes the turf, and a group I over 2,000 meters at Randwick would certainly suit the horse.
“The way he won the World Cup also suggests to me he would be hard to beat in the Cox Plate,” he added, referring to the important group I prep for the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I). “It is more a question of working out the logistics of it all.”
Animal Kingdom has certainly done enough to justify retirement, but we’re rooting for Messara to take the sporting path after Ascot. Let’s give the world’s horse a chance to do something the world has never seen before.
John Messara comments on Animal Kingdom's win following the Dubai World Cup: