The negative comments poured in after the news hit the fan that a deal had been struck to transfer a majority interest of breeding rights in Animal Kingdom to Australian interests. Never too shy about voicing their opinions, it seems that American race fans had two major gripes with the development. First, it not only means that the 2011 Kentucky Derby winners’ racing season next year would be cut short in order to have him down under in time for their breeding season, (our fall) but it also meant that he would likely make no more than one final start within U.S. borders. Secondly, it became one more example of another of America’s top male runners being snatched up to stand stud in a foreign land. I can certainly understand the frustration, but I have a decidedly different, albeit probably unpopular, take on the subject. As far as Animal Kingdom’s American racing career being cut short, I see a clear silver lining. Sure it would be nice to see the Team Valor star doing well again next year at Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup, but I must say the prospect of seeing him win races at Dubai and Royal Ascot, interests me even more. The world is shrinking, and racing is not, and should not be, immune to this phenomenon. Team Valor's Barry Irwin understands this. Big races are won regularly throughout the world by foreign shippers, and to me this only makes racing on a global scale all the more interesting. The only problem with this belief as an American is we seem to be falling woefully short in the ability to participate in shipping out to win important international races. Many U.S race fans cling to the belief that we are the dominant racing country in the world. I do not; how can I when I see Europeans, Japanese, and Australians routinely ship to other parts of the world to win prestigious races, while we do not?
Now I know there is clearly a surface issue that leaves the Americans at a disadvantage in international racing, as evidenced by our success before the Dubai switch to a synthetic surface, and our failures since, but I think it is vital that we at least try. Otherwise we are in danger of becoming a country that falls farther and farther behind in the level of quality we run on a daily basis at American racetracks.
What better way to go after the big international races than with a horse equipped to actually win them? Enter Animal Kingdom. I struggle to imagine a horse of recent years with a better opportunity to win races on huge international stages than the soon-to-be five-year-old Graham Motion trainee.
John Messara of Arrowfield Stud, the farm that will stand the 2011 three-year-old champion in Australia, says, “Animal Kingdom excites us as a rare kind of athlete with a truly international pedigree who is able to express his class on a range of surfaces. He is already rated among the world’s elite turf milers and has the potential to become a global superstar in 2013.”
A global superstar is exactly what Animal Kingdom would become with a win or wins in races like the Dubai World Cup and the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. It would be a feather in the cap of American racing that cannot be gained from a win in the Breeders’ Cup. It would be racing legitimacy that I believe the United States has begun to lack in recent years. So say what you will about not getting to see the horse poised to become the first Kentucky Derby winner to race at the age of five in thirteen years, more than once in America next year. I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of what he could accomplish in 2013.
As for the breeding aspect of this deal, I can also see a silver lining. Animal Kingdom, “who will begin his stud career in Australia next September and likely shuttle to the Northern Hemisphere beginning in 2014,” according to the Team Valor press release on the deal, is not a horse who will leave America never to be seen again. Or at least that is the hope.
“Likely shuttle to the Northern Hemisphere,” leaves plenty of ambiguity to wonder whether the son of Leroidesanimaux will actually shuttle north every spring, and if in fact it will be the United States that he will be shuttling to, but for now, I believe there is sufficient reason to believe that both will be the case. Imagine an American sire seeing the best of broodmares from all over the globe. If it all works out, he has the potential to become a sire who stands half the year in America, while at the same time being considered a global superstar as a stallion. There is that global superstar phrase again, but the prospect of seeing an American champion runner, become a Danehill type of sire, while still standing in America, is an intriguing one to say the least.
So be sad, if you must, on missing out on a handful of American starts next year, or seeing Animal Kingdom first breed in Australia. I see it a different way; the world is shrinking and Animal Kingdom could be just the horse to get America back in the game.