03/31/2013 1:42AM

Moonrise Kingdom


For those who were confused by the mixed message sent when the strains of the Australian national anthem could be heard on Saturday in the warm desert night, played in tribute to Animal Kingdom's victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, be comforted that you were not alone. Still, it's a catchy tune, and here are the words so when they play it again you can sing along:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature's gifts,
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page let every stage,
Advance Australia Fair!

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair!

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We'll toil with heart and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours,
Renowned through all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas,
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine to
Advance Australia Fair!

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair!

Yes, I know, there's nothing of the martial majesty of the "Star Spangled Banner" (not to be confused with the Australian-bred sprinter Starspangledbanner who finished 14th on Saturday in the Al Quoz Sprint). Toiling with hearts and hands hardly stacks up against the cinematic images unleashed by lines like "twilight's last gleaming" and "rockets red glare," which I believe are also the titles of Tom Clancy novels. Sharing boundless plains sounds vaguely socialist, and what's that rubbing it in about being "young and free." They trying to suggest America is a mature nation? As in old?

It is a peculiar conceit of the American sports psyche that we should be able to conquer any game that we try. That is why the previous three World Cups had been so frustrating, watching such admirable American runners as Gio Ponti, Game on Dude and Royal Delta sink like stones in the desert. By winning for the American-based Team Valor syndicate and his new Australian owners, Animal Kingdom did not do anything the American-trained World Cup winners Cigar, Silver Charm, Captain Steve, Pleasantly Perfect, Roses in May, Invasor, Curlin or Well Armed didn't do. But he did it in the face of rampant pessimism, of the thinking that it might never happen again.

Make what you will of the lasix issue and the difference between foreign and domestic rules, but do not expect dramatic conclusions to be taken seriously. Animal Kingdom ran a remarkable race without lasix against horses who were not using lasix, just as he ran remarkable races in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Breeders' Cup Mile while using lasix and running against horses who were using lasix.

So while nothing was proven in terms of medication, there still can be lessons learned. Clearly, training on a synthetic Tapeta surface to race on Meydan's Tapeta surface seems to make the difference in an American racehorse being able to show its true class. American trainers who have tried taking horses back and forth between dirt and synthetic surfaces will testify to the fact that muscle modeling plays a significant role in how they do. It is no fluke that the only other American horse to win a World Cup program race during the Tapeta era was Kinsale King, a very nice sprinter on dirt who trained for nearly two months on a Tapeta surface before winning the 2010 Golden Shaheen.

When he was not recuperating from his unlucky injuries, Animal Kingdom trained for most of the last two years on a Tapeta surface at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland. When Graham Motion took him to Florida this winter, Animal Kingdom did all of his serious speed work on the Palm Meadows turf, which did nothing to change his Tapeta programming. Royal Delta, on the other hand, trained on dirt at Payson Park, while Dullahan trained on dirt at Gulfstream Park. Well backed and well meant, they finished 10th and 11th in the World Cup.

In the end, the reason Animal Kingdom separated himself so conclusively from the rest of the World Cup runners -- save the relentless stayer Red Cadeaux -- is because he is without a doubt the most superbly versatile Thoroughbred to emerge from American racing since Ack Ack, whose 1971 Horse of the Year campaign included wins on turf and dirt, from 5 1/2 to 10 furlongs, under weights as high as 134 pounds. Barry Irwin, the CEO of Team Valor, had a front row seat for Charlie Whittingham's work with Ack Ack and was deeply imprinted with the conviction that you could dare to ask questions of some horses that most horses could not answer.

Animal Kingdom will be off to Australia for stud duty this summer, but the dreary details of commerce should not in any way dull the satisfaction of his performance. Thoroughbreds are an international commodity, in play all the time, and anyway it's a little bit late for sentimentalists to wax patriotic about keeping the best American runners in the U.S. for procreative purposes. That ship sailed 23 years ago, when Sunday Silence ended up in Japan. So cue the Aussie anthem for Animal Kingdom, now owned by Arrowfield Stud in Aberdeen, north of Sydney. He'll be standing there alongside Gio Ponti, a three-time Eclipse champion, as well as a pretty good Australian miler by the name of All American.

Kimberly Shugars More than 1 year ago
I am pretty sure I stated in an earlier comment that Animal Kingdom would be standing the 2014 Northern Hemisphere breeding season somewhere in the US or Europe and in steps Darley and assures that that will happen. Darley also stands Hard Spun, Street Cry, Medaglia D'oro, Street Boss and several other (American) stallions in Australia during the southern Hemisphere season. There is no doubt that this will give Animal Kingdom access to the best broodmares all over the world. Darley 29%, Arrowfield Stud 51%, Team Valor 20%...WoW...This will assure that Animal Kingdom will be one of, if not the most promoted new stallion in history. If he services a full book in both hemispheres, were talking in excess of 250 first crop foals. Whoever said he was an Australian horse was quite wrong. The horse has an international pedigree being by a Brazillian stallion who is by an American stallion out of British mare and out of a German mare who's dam hales from Ireland. Apparently He can run on anything There is no reason why he should not be an international stallion. Darley has assured there will be no repeat of the Sunday Silence or even the I'll Have Another grumblings.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Thank GOD for the boys from Meydan. AK will stand in America after all!!! Great news indeed.
Wade Teasdale More than 1 year ago
Tapeta is so unique -- especially when it heats up, that failure to train on it is usually the kiss of death. Especially at Meydan. I read elsewhere tjat significant muscle modeling is involved. Similar to the unique muscle modeling that goes on in sports-specific training in human sports.
Bailey Gallison More than 1 year ago
Jay, to say nothing was proven in terms of medication is to sweep the evidence under the rug. Animal Kingdom proved that American horses don't break when asked to run with just their natural ability, they do not choke on their bleeding lungs and they do not suffer without Salix/Lasix/Furosemide. Not all horses are equal, and not all horses require Lasix to run without harming themselves. And yet the Breeders' Cup tries to phase out our addiction to race day drugs and every owner and trainer is suddenly an animal welfare activist ready to call us animal abusers for wanting to raise, race, and breed without performance enhancing drugs. AK raced without bleeder medication, and performed extraordinarily well, because he is not a bleeder. If he's scoping clean, then why was he raced on Lasix in the US? (That's a rhetorical question, we all know the answer but American racing wants to pretend it's for the benefit of the animal.)
Jan Cross More than 1 year ago
Animal Kingdom is Australian and Crocodile Dundee is from NY city because he acted in a film there, right? Sorry mates, but AK is still a Yankee Doodle Dandy pony!
Nathan More than 1 year ago
r. u. on drugs? were you watching the same race? perfect trip off a 26 second first 1/4. anothr 50 yards and he gets beat and joel is a bum again. too bad he's not coming back to s. cal for the b.c. he would be a great bet against.
Gary Peacock More than 1 year ago
Another 50 yards and perhaps he defeats Wise Dan.
Michael More than 1 year ago
Animal Kingdom is terrific yes, but to say he's the most versatile since Ack Ack is delusional. Secretariat was a champion on both surfaces, and won sprinting and Lava Man remains the only horse to be a Grade 1 winner on turf, dirt and synthetic. Geez, and then just last year the HOY went to Wise Dan who's proven on all 3 surfaces at the top level.
richard cowles More than 1 year ago
Golly.....great reading . I can only guess that any superior animal should not be in these sheds in the states come breeding time in the winter.
Dawn Gerber More than 1 year ago
Which is why American breeders keep their heads in tha sand and breed to sell! The sales ring will be the death of the American Racehorse. Our game is going downhill while others buy the horses for some reason I can't seem to fathom are not deemed "fashionable" enough, sheesh!
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
Kyri, AK is not "shuttling". He's going to live there. They sold 75% of him to the Aussies. We only breed speed in America, and then wonder why we cannot get a horse to win 3 races early in his/her three year old year at 10, 9.5, and 12 furlongs for the last 35 years...
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Well said, Gaye.