Animal Kingdom captured one of the most wide-open Kentucky
Derbys in years with a powerful run, stamping himself head and shoulders above
the other 18 runners. Were we all wrong
that the race was wide open?
Or did we
miss some clues about Animal Kingdom that were right there for all to see? So, the question immediately becomes, was
this Derby winner a fluke or is Animal Kingdom the real deal?
It’s always easier to look back on the race with hindsight,
but this exercise also helps us determine whether or not Animal Kingdom will
continue his winning ways in Baltimore.
So, here are four reasons why Animal Kingdom won the
4) Animal Kingdom was
working out great
Animal Kingdom had a couple terrific workouts leading up to
the Derby. This is critical because the
works signaled he was in top form and potentially sitting on a big race.
- :59 2/5 @ CD
– 1:00 B @ CD
Moment - :47 2/5 @ CD (sloppy)
Fire - :47 4/5 @ CD (sloppy)
Man - :1:00 2/5 @ CD; :58 1/5 @ GP
- :58 4/5 @ CD
Interlude – 1:13 3/5 @ CD (good)
Kingdom – 1:13 B @ CD; :59 1/5 @ Kee
Soldat – :59
Now, granted, these 9 horses represent half the field, but
they are the right half of the field. Especially
considering that they filled up 3 of the top 4 spots with Animal Kingdom, Mucho
Macho Man and Shackleford.
Now, since Animal Kingdom had never raced on dirt, a lot of
people would like to look at his one dirt work as a good work and say he liked
the dirt – but we won’t go that far. Let’s
just say he was working great and leave it at that.
3) The outside was
the right part of the track
On Derby Day, the outside of the track was the better part
of the track. That was a theme we say
all day long on the main track. Here are
the dirt race winners and the chart caller’s comments:
||"reeled in the leaders through the turn four wide…"
||"dug in tenaciously to turn back an inside challenge…"
||Allow Opt Clm
||"gained momentum four wide mid turn…"
||"circled six wide into the stretch…"
||"reserved three wide, angled out six wide…"
Still not convinced?
Look at the first six place finishers in the Derby. All six came from the nine outside post
positions. That’s somewhat
remarkable. That means that 6 of the 9
horses in post positions 11-19 filled out the top six spots, and posts 1-10
filled out 10 of the last 13 spots.
positioning on a slow pace by John Velazquez
This year’s Derby pace was absolutely crawling compared to
other Derbys this century. How slow?
The half-mile and three-quarter mile and one mile times were more than a
full second slower than any Kentucky Derby since 2000.
|Mine That Bird
Still, the way the main track was playing today, it was
setting up for closers, and the Derby frequently sets up for a closer with the
mile and a quarter distance. So, it was
a perfect ride by John Velazquez to allow Animal Kingdom to maintain his
closing style, but without dropping too far back. Although he was in 12th position
at both the ¼ and ½ mile calls, he was within six lengths of the lead each
For those deep closers that got too far back, they had way
too much work to do to make up ground on the front runners after this slow
pace. None of the six horses in the
back of the pack early could dent the top six at the end.
1) Trainer Graham Motion had him perfectly pointed
for the Derby
So how do we say this horse was pointed for this race? Simple.
He came in the race with his third race of the year. His third race off of the layoff. He was a horse on the improve who ran big in
a Derby prep in his second race of the year.
Then he was training great to keep improving in his third race of the
Is that the right way to train a horse for the Derby? Hard to say, we’ll leave that up to the
trainers. But, the important point is
that this horse was pointed for this race specifically. How many other horses entered in the Derby were
pointed to this race as the third race of the year? Just two.
The Pletcher horses, Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo, who of course, didn’t
get to run.
Every other horse in the race had a string of races leading
up to Derby as somewhere along the way the connections were trying to learn how
good the horse was. Five of the key
players: Dialed In, Nehro, Archarcharch, Soldat and Midnight Interlude all were
running in January for their connections to determine if they had a Derby