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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Animal Kingdom is the People’s Choice

The fans have spoken. Animal Kingdom is the people’s choice. When I asked which current older horse they most anticipated coming back in 2013, I expected to see a fair amount of support for several horses. After all, with a list that included Wise Dan, Fort Larned, Mucho Macho Man, Royal Delta, Groupie Doll, Game On Dude, Point of Entry, and Little Mike, there seemed to be plenty of outstanding choices. What I got instead, was nothing short of a resounding vote of confidence in one horse above all else. With more than seven times as many votes as his nearest competition, at the time of writing, it is clear that Animal Kingdom has captured the imagination of more race fans than anyone else in training. His electrifying two starts this year was not nearly enough to satisfy hungry supporters of the 2011 three-year-old champion.
 
A big part of this yearning to see more is a direct result of his eye-popping rally in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. His awesome burst of speed to finish second to Wise Dan, left fans everywhere amazed. No matter how much you believed in the powerful son Leroidesanimaux, you had no way of knowing for sure if he could compete in earnest with many of the finest middle distance horses in the world considering the circumstances. Keep in mind, even making it to the 2012 Breeders’ Cup after undergoing surgery for a fracture in his left hind leg last summer, and then suffering an injury to the same leg after his impressive allowance win early this year, was a feat in and of itself.
 
Under the expert training and watchful eye of Graham Motion, the Team Valor four-year-old star ran a stunning race in the World Championships. It was a performance to be truly excited about. Having been trapped down on the rail behind horses for most of the way, Animal Kingdom, with plenty of horse, but no room to run, was steadied sharply on the backstretch, falling even farther back and in danger of being an also-ran in the one-mile test. As heavily favored Wise Dan sat a perfect stalking trip behind the early speed of Obviously, Animal Kingdom, under Rafael Bejarano, was able to regain striking distance, but once again, was stuck behind a wall of horses down on the inside.
 
When the Mile field came spinning out of the turn, it appeared that Animal Kingdom was not going to make much noise. As Wise Dan swept to the lead, Animal Kingdom could do little but wait. Still full of horse, but with nowhere to go, the hole came far too late for the big horse in the green and red silks to have any chance to catch the talented leader. When an opening finally did materialize, Animal Kingdom used a rare combination of explosive turn of foot and giant strides to gobble up the Santa Anita turf. Blitzing from sixth to second in a heartbeat, Animal Kingdom was as much the talk after the race as was the winner who both broke a track record, and likely clinched a Horse of the Year title in so doing. An extrapolation of the final furlong time for the runner-up reveals a sub-eleven second finish, despite not having clear running room for a big chunk of that final eighth of a mile.
 
Not bad for a horse that had not raced in 8 ½ months, and that race at Gulfstream, was his only start in the past 17 months. It would seem that the horse that won the Kentucky Derby impressively, and finished a fast closing second in the Preakness, before being completely wiped out in the early stages of the Belmont Stakes, back in 2011, may be even better now as an older, more mature horse. When I saw Animal Kingdom the morning after arriving at Santa Anita, he cast a physical presence that rivaled anything I’ve ever seen.
 
On this vote, I am with the people. I cannot wait to see what Animal Kingdom does next. 
 
 
 

 

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Older Comments about Animal Kingdom is the People’s Choice...

I've never really liked him (I had Archarcharch in the derby and think Caleb's Posse well deserved 3YO champ) but I'm willing to give him another shot. I guess I hope he's not the second coming of Acclamation, who flashed so much brilliance but was hampered by nagging injuries
Our best chance to win the Dubai World Cup since the switch to a synthetic surface.
he was my derby pick in march, when he ran at turfway in 2011
AK is a champion in his own right though, for winning the KY Derby and placing a very close 2nd in the Preakness. He was just had a few lay offs- the first not his fault.
Gulfstream will be an interesting race since it looks like Wise Dan and AK will have a rematch along with possibly Point of Entry taking a shot at them. I'm betting AK all the way
I'd consider him an underdog. He got hurt in a race he should've won, and then went into a layoff, then came back in an AW OC and destroyed, then went up against champions like Wise Dan and almost won.
February 9. 2013, Gulfstream Park, Hallandale FL . . . be there or be square. The Animal Kingdom will roar into 2013!
AK is where its at. FYI I just stumbled on a new website. racepickspro.com....worth a look.
A.K.----By the people and for the people!!!
AK is the bomb.
AK has filled out beautifully, is a sight to behold on the track as he was in the Post Parade of the 2011 KY Derby. I regret not visiting him while he was at Fair Hill, but very happy we'll be seeing him on the track again.
Yes, he's incredibly versatile. Dirt, Turf, Synthetic.....it doesn't make a difference with him. Very excited to see how he will (if he does go) perform in Dubai
Funny thing about this horse is we really don't know if he has a surface weakness, seems he can run on anything. What do you think?
I've never considered AK an underdog. It's more that people have doubted his abilities because they don't fully understand them.
I think the reason is because people love having an underdog to cheer for

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing since birth. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 
  
As Managing Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Brian also serves on the the Board of Directors of ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
  
A graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives in Suburban Chicago with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra, where he is a professional golf instructor when he is not following the horses.