Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
They came, they saw, but they could not conquer. In his final start, Animal Kingdom would regretfully be unable to return the Queen Anne Stakes to foreign shores.
Breaking out of stall thirteen, Animal Kingdom was notably keen from the start of the race, pulling for his head throughout the initial stages with John Velazquez unable to settle the star five year old son of Leroidsanimaux.
As the runners headed towards the halfway mark, Velazquez began to signal the warning signs on the dual Group 1 winner, urging the colt to go and win his third race at the highest level in the third different continent. However, the response from his partner was seemingly uncharacteristic in absence.
With the race developing into the business end, Animal Kingdom began to drop back at an alarming rate with the chance of an early American victory slipping away with each and every length relinquished. The runners more familiar to the British and Irish public would settle the race between themselves once more.
"I am sorry it did not work out," said trainer Graham Motion. "It is disappointing for everyone as there was such a good reception for him. It would have been great to see him do his stuff but he clearly didn't today. At the half mile pole he [Velazquez] started to ask him to run and there wasn't much there"
"I always had reservations about what we were dealing with - it became a very awkward post and Johnny had difficulty getting him to settle early. I think that it is probably what hurt Animal Kingdom the most. If he had been drawn in the middle it would have been easier. It is so different - the fact that he was keen early and he did not have any cover, he is so used to being tucked in and when you are out in the open like that it is a different ball game."
"He was keen and just didn't relax," said Velazquez. "When I let him down he gave me no run at all. He just didn't have it today."
Heavily-fancied to land the Lockinge Stakes on his last start, Declaration of War failed to deliver any effort of great substance in the event. However, the faith and belief that Aidan O' Brien had shown in the four year old son of War Front was quickly repaid in abundance today.
Unlike the Lockinge, Declaration of War would provide a strong, sustained run from the back of the pack on the wide outside of the field. Well on top at the end, Declaration of War delivered in the manner of a horse whom may yet prove the one to beat in the European mile division this year after being considered for the Breeders Cup Classic as a three year old last season before those plans were shelved at the eleventh hour.
"We've always thought a lot of him and we learnt a lot from the Lockinge," said O' Brien. "We were disappointed last time and he got very tired but we learnt from that. He is all about speed and stamina and has trained very well since his last race."
"Joseph knew where he wanted to be and was always in a good position. They [Coolmore & Joseph Allen] have a lot of options. We could drop back in trip or stay at a mile."
Having enjoyed rich success in America, this was Joseph Allen's first winner at Royal Ascot in partnership with the Coolmore fraternity. The owner of War Front, Just A Game and Political Force, Allen was delighted with the result in the first race of the internationally respected festival.
"I'm in bliss, it's a wonderful day - I could not be happier," said Allen. "I bred the sire of this horse, War Front, and still have his dam, Tempo West. This is a very difficult game to really sustain yourself and to stay ahead you need great partners."
"I think this horse now has a great future at stud, but where he stands I will leave to John Magnier who knows so much more than I do. These guys have been in the game a long time and add so much to it."
A next start for the colt could come in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood if O' Brien opts for the mile route whilst the Darley July Cup would seem the obvious alternative should they opt for a drop back in trip.