It has been years since we have experienced the thrill of a Triple Crown, 33 long years. We have seen many great, brilliant horses like Spectacular Bid, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Point Given, Smarty Jones, and Big Brown, falter in one race or another, ultimately denying the Triple Crown glory. All of them looked like sure things as they embarked on their Triple Crown journey, especially Spectacular Bid, Point Given, Smarty, and Big Brown. Three of those succumbed to the rigors of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, while Point Given stunned his followers when finishing a well beaten fifth in the Kentucky Derby. If we have learned anything from these stunning defeats it is that even the surest win can turn to loss. In knowing this, why couldn’t the horse that is the farthest from a lock, the one that nobody expects, be the one to rise to the occasion?
Animal Kingdom, this year’s Kentucky Derby victor, shocked the nation when he won the most prestigious and famous race in America at odds of 27-1. The chestnut colt had never won a grade one race, had never run over dirt, and he was coming into the Derby off of six week layoff. According to history this colt and accoring to the trends he should have never won the the Kentucky Derby, yet he defied the surest stats to win the race going away. Could it be that one of the most mysterious Derby winners the Triple Crown has seen may be the one to claim the glory.
Many of us may still question Animal Kingdom’s ability to handle dirt, since the Churchill Downs main track has proven to be kind to turf runners in the past. The colts pedigree, also, at first glance does not inspire confidence in his ability to handle dirt. His sire, Leroidesanimaux, was a champion over turf, however, his grandsire Candy Stripes, was able to sire champions on any surface, including such champions as Horse of the Year Invasor, as well as Leroidesanimaux. He is also the broodmare sire of Candy Ride, who was a Champion in Argentina over dirt. Candy Ride also proved to be able to pass along the gene of versatility. Two of the most recent examples are his sons Sidney’s Candy and Twirling Candy. The latter has grade stakes wins over turf and dirt while Sidney’s Candy has a grade one win over synthetics and grade two stakes wins over dirt and turf.
Animal Kingdom may have gone off at long odds, however with his breeding, soundness, and potential he has a legitimate shot at becoming the first horse since Affirmed to sweep the Triple Crown. Unlike the past “sure things”, he has the breeding, he has the mind, and is coming into his own at the correct time. Will it be easy? I am not saying it will be. How could it be considered such after a drought over three decades long? What I am saying is that even though he may be one of the most unpredictable horses to make an assault on the Triple Crown, he may just be the one with the best chance.