06/16/2011 4:59PM

Animal Kingdom has injured leg, will miss some training

Debra A. Roma
Animal Kingdom was squeezed back after the start of the Belmont Stakes and stumbled, nearly unseating jockey John Velazquez.

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Animal Kingdom, the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up, sustained an injury to his left hind leg that will keep him out of training for a couple of weeks, but should not prevent him from running again this year, his connections announced Thursday.

Animal Kingdom has what veterinarians describe as a fissure, or small crack, on the tip of the cannon bone where it joins the lower part of the hock. It is believed that the injury occurred when Animal Kingdom stumbled in the early stages of the Belmont Stakes when a horse came over on him and then Animal Kingdom clipped heels with another horse in front of him.

The recommended plan of action, according to Dr. Larry Bramlage of the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington, Ky., is that Animal Kingdom be taken out of training for two weeks before having the leg X-rayed again.

"In two weeks it should settle down and he should be sound again," Bramlage said in a press release distributed by Team Valor International, the syndicate which owns Animal Kingdom. "I don't think it is going to separate, but that would be the worry. Right now it is a tiny crack and technically you could call it a fracture. But I would characterize it as more of a fissure because of how small it is."

Bramlage examined the X-rays that were taken by Dr. Dean Richardson at the New Bolton Equine Clinic in Kennett Square, Pa., where Animal Kingdom was sent on Wednesday for a bone scan after trainer Graham Motion noticed that horse was off in his left hind leg.

Replay of Animal Kingdom's rough start in the Belmont from multiple angles.

"He lit up pretty good on the nuclear scan," Bramlage said. "Normally, no matter how hard a horse hits his leg on the ground in an accident, there is not enough force to show this type of uptake on the scan for a period of at least 10 days. This tells me that, like a lot of racehorses, he probably had a little something going on in there that he was dealing with. But when he hit the ground with such force in the accident, he overloaded the bone and this is the result.

"The good news is that this should not cost him the entire season," Bramlage added. "I would hope that he would be able to return to training in a matter of weeks."

Motion had said Sunday morning that Animal Kingdom came out of the Belmont Stakes -- in which he stumbled after clipping heels with another horse at the start -- a little stiff. Motion said it wasn’t until Monday, one day after the horse had shipped back to the Fair Hill training center, that he noticed Animal Kingdom "was off in his left hind. It wasn’t apparent immediately. By Monday, it was."

Motion said Animal Kingdom was expected to be vanned back from New Bolton to Motion’s Fair Hill barn by Thursday night.

Naturally, Motion was disappointed by the injury, "especially for a horse who’s never had a pimple on him."

Animal Kingdom, a son of Leroidesanimaux, didn’t emerge onto the Triple Crown scene until late March when he rallied from last to win the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes over the synthetic surface at Turfway Park. His victory in the Kentucky Derby came in his first start on dirt when he thread his way through the field from 12th place under John Velazquez to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

Two weeks later, in the Preakness, Animal Kingdom broke slowly and rallied from next-to-last to finish second, one half-length behind Shackleford.

MORE: Maragh gets seven-day suspension for careless riding in Belmont Stakes »