In racing we all have our favorites. We root for them, we
cheer them on, we take them as our own. However, while we have fans that are
incredibly supportive and optimistic, you also have those that are cynical to a
fault. They don’t have favorites and seem to like nothing less than to tear
down a talented horse as soon as it should finish less than first.
I myself am neither overly optimistic, nor am I a cynic. I
try to be as fair as possible when I evaluate horses, and it is for that reason
I am writing today.
For those like me, that are neither optimists nor
pessimists, we have to look at all aspects of a race in order to gain proper
prospective. Is the horse deserving of the criticism, are they on a downhill
slope? Or, was there a good reason behind the performance that saw them second
instead of first? In the case of Animal Kingdom
, I don’t believe there is any
reason for panic.
The Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap
was a short, but deep
field. You had two other grade one horses
running in there, one was the best turf router in America. Point of Entry
coming off a stellar 2012 campaign. He ran in four grade ones, and won three.
He was quite literally half a length from being named Horse of the Year,
Leading Older Male, and Top Turf Horse. However most gave him no credit, due to
the fact his best distance was 12 furlongs, not nine. That was a large mistake.
When dissecting the running of the race, one cannot miss the
large middle move made by Animal Kingdom, who sat fifth at the half, then was
in front in the matter of another furlong. Do I agree with the middle move? I
do, only to an extent. The pace was slow, especially for a firm surface at
Gulfstream, meaning if he were to have any shot at catching loose on the lead
speed, he would have to get involved a little earlier. However, I do not think
should have moved his mount all the way to the lead.
Animal Kingdom is a closer who likes to run down his
targets. Here he was put on the lead, which could have thrown him off his game.
In hindsight, I think the move would have been more effective if Rosario had
moved Animal Kingdom to third, just off of Point of Entry. That would have
given him better position, without taking him completely out of his element.
Despite the early move, Animal Kingdom still sprinted home,
showing a turn of foot that would have easily won most races. His final three
furlongs, he flew home in approximately 33.86 seconds. That is almost unheard
of, especially when you look at the internal fraction of the race, after he
made his middle move.
Point of Entry, who stayed in his customary stalking position,
had the perfect set up, and Johnny Velazquez
took advantage of it fully. He got
his distance loving mount revved up, and with clear sailing coming into the
stretch, he drew his mount to Animal Kingdom’s side and turn him lose. Point of
Entry looked Animal Kingdom in the eye and found another gear, coming home his
final three furlongs in 33.76.
In conclusion, Animal Kingdom ran an extraordinary race.
While both he and Point of Entry were coming off a 14 week layoff, remember,
this was only Animal Kingdom’s second start in nearly 12 months. He was taken
out of his typical running style, and still fired his best shot. It was only
rotten luck that Point of Entry fired his best as well, and in this case it happened
to be just a little bit better.
What we can take from this is that we saw two great horses go
to post yesterday. Both fired their best shots, and the unexpected horse won.
That does not mean Animal Kingdom is off form. It doesn’t mean he isn’t the
same horse. It simply means he got beat. He got beat by a horse who is his
equal. He loses nothing in defeat.