To be or not to be: isn’t that the question? Well, avid race goers and spectators have a similar question on their hands: Wise Dan or Animal Kingdom?
Most who watched the 2012 Breeders Cup Mile saw only what was on top: Wise Dan clearly demolishing the field, and after all, he did set a new track record in doing so. But those select few people who know racing looked deeper. Not at the track surface. Not at the 3rd place finisher. But their attention drew to the 2nd place finisher, Animal Kingdom.
After a good break from the gates, Animal Kingdom (with new jockey Rafael Bejarano) was content with settling 7th going into the first turn. All the way to the 3rd turn, he stayed there, observing, letting all of the other horses do the work. It was only when he needed to move that a nightmare snuck up on him: he was boxed on the rail, coming into the homestretch, with no room. If he had room, he might’ve been the one to challenge Wise Dan all through the stretch. Rafael Bejarano certainly knew what was under him, and that was a horse with a full tank and no running room, a gut sinking situation. But with 100 yards left, his chance opened up. Bejarano pushed Animal Kingdom hard without going to his whip, and the chestnut responded gamely. He opened up his strides and ate up the track, aimed at Wise Dan, the leader. Unfortunately, he ran out of ground as Wise Dan had just crossed the wire. But, didn’t Wise Dan have to overcome anything? Did he have the perfect trip? Well, lets take a look at his trip.
Wise Dan, breaking from post 2, sprang from the gates quickly without any trouble and loped to the lead. He and Johnny Velazquez sank to 3rd, watching the front runners run themselves dry. Obviously and Suggestive Boy took the opening quarters in 23.34 and 46.16. Coming into the homestretch, Wise Dan weaseled himself along the rail into 2nd and hooked to the outside, 2 lengths behind Obviously. In a few strides, Wise Dan did what he does best: took the lead and opened daylight. Its going to be an easy win, he’ll have no competitors, spectators clearly thought. Well, it was. Until Animal Kingdom burst onto the scene a second too late.
In 2013, Animal Kingdom (I’m going on a limb here) will be a beast. He is just beginning to grow up and get a hold of running. There will be nothing stopping him, besides the horse that gave him his most recent defeat. Animal Kingdom’s breeding suggests it, and his past performances support it; Animal Kingdom at his best will be extremely hard to beat.
Then again, Wise Dan is not a horse you can easily look over when it comes to any race of his. He has won his last 4 starts in awe-inspiring fashion, knocking off all challengers in a race to the wire. Even though Wise Dan is consistent, you can look for AK to ruin that streak. This may be Dan’s last year, for he may be losing his touch, some say. Well, judging by his Breeders Cup Mile, I don’t think he is losing talent anytime soon.
Who knows, maybe a new comer to the scene will dominate turf miles in the US in 2013. Maybe a horse will kick dust in Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom’s faces. But, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Ever. In a fair ridden race between Animal Kingdom and Wise Dan, my money is going on Animal Kingdom. Who will be your pick?
Written by Madison Jackson (aka TBDF)