Saturday’s Vinery Spiral champion ANIMAL KINGDOM (Leroidesanimaux – Dalicia, by Acatenago) was highly regarded before he stepped foot on a race track. He caught the eye of the racing group Team Valor International, which paid $100,000 for the Chestnut colt at the 2009 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
He was favored in his off the turf debut going 1 1/16 miles over the Arlington Park Polytrack. He encountered traffic but gained the place spot. A month later in October, Animal Kingdom was impressive at Keeneland drawing off by more than three lengths traveling 1 1/8 miles. In his first start as a three year old, the Graham Motion trainee just missed winning a mile turf event by a short head. In just the fourth start of his career Animal Kingdom drew off to win the Vinery Spiral Stakes, getting the 1 1/8 miles by almost four lengths in 1:52.32.
Animal Kingdom’s sire, damsire and second damsire Dancing Brave, were all Champions over the lawn. His sire Leroidesanimaux was voted the 2005 Eclipse Award Champion Turf Male. During his career, Leroidesanimaux set three track records. He flashed spectacular speed wining his maiden at first asking, equaling the track record for 1300 meters turf (6 ½ F) in 1:17 in his native Brazil. Brought to the USA by Stud TNT, and trained by the late, great Bobby Frankel, Leroidesanimaux won his second start in the US and rolled to an eight race win streak, setting new track records at Hollywood Park and Saratoga. The only mar on the showy colt’s otherwise perfect record was a ¾ length second over good going in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, which was his final start.
At stud, Leroidesanimaux gets the requisite turf and synthetic track winners, but he has a handful of winners over the dirt too. His best runner over the surface is the La Canada heroine, Always A Princess, a half sister to multiple stakes winner Gabby’s Golden Gal. His son the hard-knocking Crimson Knight was recently second in the Tampa Bay Derby. Leroidesanimaux is also represented by a couple of allowance winners over dirt. The one thread running through all of their pedigrees is that their distaff lines are primarily dirt oriented.
Leroidesanimaux’s sire Candy Stripes was a top sire in Argentina. Besides Leroidesanimaux, he has another son standing at stud in the US, this year’s first crop sire, Horse of the Year Invasor. Additionally, Candy Stripes is the broodmare sire of the top stallion, Candy Ride.
Animal Kingdom's damsire Acatenango was Horse of the Year in Germany three years running. In four years, he only lost two of 17 stakes races. He captured races ranging in distance from about 1 3/16 to 1 ½ miles over the turf. Acatenango continued his top efforts at stud, earning Champion sire honors in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999. Acatenango’s daughters are Europe based, but besides Animal Kingdom, Acatenango is the distaff sire of the Beverly D Stakes (G-1) heroine E Claire De Lune.
Animal Kingdom is the first foal from his dam Dalicia. She won three of 23 starts including a Group 3 affair. As one would expect from a mare with strong German bloodlines, she specialized in turf routes. Animal Kingdom's distaff line is filled with a long line of German graded stakes winners. Their Bruce Lowe Female Family number 1-h has its roots in Europe, but did produce 1954 Belmont Stakes winner High Gun.
Animal Kingdom's second damsire Dancing Brave won the famed Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as a three year old, netting him European Horse of the Year honors. At stud as a broodmare sire, his daughters have produced over 27 international Group/graded stakes winners.
Animal Kingdom looks remarkably like his sire Leroidesanimaux, with the same long stride, and accrding to Team Valor's Barry Irwin, he is larger and more muscular than his sire. Animal Kingdom appears to have a large muscular shoulder and powerful hindquarters with great bone
Animal Kingdom has brilliant speed over stout German stamina. The 1 ¼ miles of the Kentucky Derby distance should be well within his scope, but since Turfway Park changed the running surface of the main track from dirt to Polytrack, only one Spiral Stakes winner, Hard Spun, has finished well in the Kentucky Derby, placing second to Street Sense. The Spiral, formerly known as the Lane’s End, has produced three other winners that ran unplaced in the Kentucky Derby, but did well when pointed to turf or synthetic track stakes events. Animal Kingdom has a pedigree studded with international turf stars. In fact, one must trace back to his fifth generation to find an ancestor who raced over dirt. Animal Kingdom could well emulate his famous sire and broodmare sires by becoming a champion, but if he continues on to the Kentucky Derby, he will likely become an also-ran.