I don’t care how many total stakes wins he has … any horse that can win the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Cup, and do both in smashing style, is something very special. Animal Kingdom is a special horse, and today he dominated the world’s richest race, winning the $10,000,000 race in cruise control by more than two lengths.
As if to proclaim himself the best horse in the world early on, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner made a quick move coming out of the clubhouse turn to gain second early in the backstretch, under rider Joel Rosario. With only Royal Delta in front of him, the five-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux always looked very comfortable from his outside stalking position. Taking the champion mare to task on far turn, Animal Kingdom cruised up next to his American foe, and waited for Rosario to step on the gas.
By the time the large field hit the Meydan stretch, the battle in the desert became a one-horse affair. Accelerating with monster strides, the Team Valor runner quickly opened a lead, and not even a strong late run from Red Cadeaux could ever put the big chestnut in a bit of danger. Trained by Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom could not have been much more impressive, and even at the wire looked full of run. If this indeed was the homebred’s career finale, he went out in ultimate and glorious style.
“We knew he had one more big one in him,” said Team Valor CEO, Barry Irwin. “We almost saw it in the Breeders’ Cup, but today was the day.”
With a majority interest recently sold to Arrowfield stud of Australia, the horse that thrilled American racing fans for years, and has breeding and connections from all over the globe, can now move on to a career at stud in Oz going out a winner. The world is shrinking, and Animal Kingdom has become a true international star. He’s a winner of two of the most important races in the world, and on opposite sides of the globe.
Yes, Animal Kingdom is something very special … Dare I say the best three-surface horse I’ve seen since the synthetic era began.
In other World Cup Night highlights …
-Lines of Battle likely punched his ticket back to America and a run for the roses, with a strong win in the 1 3/16 mile UAE Derby. The Aiden O’Brien trained son of War Front earned 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points while scoring for the 3rd time in 6 starts.
-In the $5,000,000 Dubai Sheema Classic, a potential stretch duel between the two favorites was not to be, as the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf champion, St Nicholas Abbey surged clear from the champion Japanese filly, Gentildonna, to win going away at the wire. In his first start since finishing third in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup, the six-year-old son of Montjeu won today for the 8th time in 20 lifetime starts. Just as it was at Churchill Downs, the win proved to be a family affair for rider, Joseph O’Brien, and his training father, Aidan.
-Soft Falling Rain raised his lifetime record to a perfect 7-for-7 with a win in the Godolphin Mile, but it was not easy. A Group 1 winner in South Africa, the Southern Hemisphere 3-year-old was well back early, but made steady progress into the stretch. With long shot Haatheq inheriting the lead from a tiring Alpha, Soft Falling Rain showed his class by collaring the leader late and went on to win by 3/4 of a length. "I was blown away," said winning trainer, Mike de Kock said of his charge's efforts. "It just shows you how good this horse is. The champions get through."
-Godolphin’s Sajjhaa continued her rapid rise to stardom with an impressive win over the boys in the Dubai Duty Free, while American hope, Little Mike made the pace but was swallowed up early in the stretch.
-Another winner for Mike de Kock, as Shea Shea lived up to his big reputation with a powerful win in the Al Quoz Sprint.
-7-year-old expatriot, Reynaldothewizard made it 3-for-3 this year at Meydan with a win in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.
-Cavalryman flew home to win the 2-mile Dubai Gold Cup going away.