03/30/2013 2:24PM

Dubai World Cup: Animal Kingdom takes world by storm

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Andrew Watkins
Animal Kingdom wins the $10 million Dubai World Cup under Joel Rosario.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Animal Kingdom is by Leroidesanimaux, a horse bred in Brazil, and he was produced by a German-bred mare named Dalicia. Late last year, an Australian stud farm acquired controlling rights to the horse, and Animal Kingdom will retire to stallion duty there sometime in the next year. Animal Kingdom’s breeder and now co-owner, Team Valor, has “International” appended to its name, and indeed, in many ways, Animal Kingdom is an international horse. But Animal Kingdom made his first 10 starts in the United States. In 2011, he won the grand prize of American racing, the Kentucky Derby. And after three years of World Cup flops at Meydan Race Course, and another night of forgettable performances earlier this night, Americans could feel free to claim Animal Kingdom as their own as he brilliantly won the $10 million World Cup here late Saturday.

Animal Kingdom became the first American-based horse to break into the top three in World Cups contested on the synthetic Tapeta surface at Meydan. And at the top of the long homestretch here, Animal Kingdom broke the hearts of pace-setting Royal Delta and Godolphin’s main World Cup hope, Hunter’s Light. Racing second behind Royal Delta’s leisurely pace down the backstretch and around the tight final turn, Animal Kingdom, with a massive heaving of his heavily muscled frame, changed leads in perfect rhythm with jockey Joel Rosario as he straightened away. In a couple strides he had made a clear lead, and before coming to the furlong marker, the World Cup was over. Red Cadeaux rallied belatedly after breaking free of traffic and cut into Animal Kingdom’s margin in deep stretch, but the diminishing two-length margin was a mirage: This was Animal Kingdom’s night.

“He’s just an extraordinary animal,” said winning trainer Graham Motion. “It reminded me of the Derby turning for home.”

Animal Kingdom became the second Kentucky Derby winner to win the World Cup, Silver Charm having pulled off the double in 1997 and 1998. But Silver Charm’s pair of wins came on dirt, with the World Cup still held at Nad Al Sheba. Animal Kingdom won the Derby on dirt, the World Cup on synthetic, and finished a fast-closing, troubled second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf last fall.

“He’s a very unique, unusual horse. He’s good enough to win any race,” said Barry Irwin, the CEO of Team Valor, which forms partnerships like the one that bred Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom began his career on Polytrack at Arlington, when he was trained by Wayne Catalano. He moved into Motion’s barn after making two starts at 2, emerging belatedly on the Triple Crown scene after winning the Spiral Stakes on Polytrack at Turfway, and upsetting the Derby at 20-1. Second in the Preakness, Animal Kingdom finished sixth in the Belmont, came out of the race with an injured leg, and didn’t race again until February 2012, when he won a turf allowance race at Gulfstream Park. That start was intended as a World Cup prep, but Animal Kingdom fractured his pelvis and didn’t race again until the BC Mile.

[DUBAI WORLD CUP: Watch replays and read race recaps]

This year, he finished second in his World Cup prep, the Feb. 9 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, with new rider Joel Rosario making an unusually early move that even Motion – in his polite, diplomatic fashion – called into question. But Rosario, Motion said after the World Cup, had been informally signed on for a two-race deal; Motion and Irwin decided to stick with him in the World Cup, a race in which Rosario never had ridden.

“I hate to see a jockey get yanked off a horse for one odd race,” said Motion. “I think Animal Kingdom has become a more difficult horse to ride as he’s gotten older. I think he just surprised Joel. It was a good learning experience for him.”

Motion, an English expatriate, was also making his World Cup debut. He slyly dodged the media crush here all week, but seemed quietly confident as Animal Kingdom went through final preparations for his biggest race since the Derby.

“I’ve never seen him this fit,” Irwin said.

Motion and Rosario huddled after watching an extremely slow edition of the UAE Derby early on the World Cup card, a race in which the winner came from the front end. Motion had said all week he didn’t want Animal Kingdom falling too far behind early in the race, and now he told Rosario to feel free to use any early speed Animal Kingdom wanted to show. Away decently from post 11, Animal Kingdom was four wide running past the stands for the first time, but dropped in to the three path by the first turn, and had made his way to second on the backstretch, with Royal Delta setting the pace. The mare, jockey Mike Smith said, never felt comfortable on Meydan’s synthetic surface: When Animal Kingdom took off, she had no response, but neither did anyone. He was timed in 2:03.21 for the about 1 1/4 miles and paid $7.40 in the United States.

Red Cadeaux, who has specialized in longer races, ran very well for second, and third-place Planteur duplicated his finish from one year ago, finishing third. He was followed by Side Glance, African Story, Meandre, Hunter’s Light, Treasure Beach, Kassiano, Royal Delta, Dullahan, and Capponi, who was distanced. Dullahan, jockey Gary Stevens, came up totally empty when asked for run about three furlongs out.

Arrowfield Stud is now the controlling owner of Animal Kingdom, and it will be up to their principal, John Messara, to decide what Animal Kingdom does next. The tentative plan, though, is to ship to England on Saturday for a start at the Royal Ascot meet, either in the Queen Anne Stakes or the Prince of Wales’s. No American horse has won either of those races. But then Animal Kingdom is proving to be no regular American horse.

Richard More than 1 year ago
Congratulation to Animal Kingdom and his connections. I knew when I saw him close for the place in The Breeders Cup that he was back. The only thing I do not like is we are losing him to Australia. We needed him here for stud! Great ride by Rosario, I knew it was just a matter of time that an American horse would win in Meydan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just dont get it with Animal Kingdom. He won the Derby and really didnt do much after till he won the Dubai World Cup. Why is EVERYONE calling him the next coming to Secretariat??? He couldnt even win a Breeders Cup or a prep against a good turf star last out. I just dont get it. Every channel on horse racing is making Animal Kingdom a great horse, now. I seem to remembe back a few years to a horse named "Well Armed" that won the Dubai World Cup by a distance and then everyone was saying what a great horse he is and then as soon as he returned to the U.S, he couldnt beat claimers if he wanted to. Lets hold off the praise for horses that truly deserve the comments.
Wade Teasdale More than 1 year ago
In between KDerby win and world cup win? Second by a neck in Preakness. Sixth in Belmont on a fractured leg after his jockey was knocked out of irons at the start. 7 month layoff. Allowance turf win run on stress fractured leg. 9 month layoff. Troubled trip and fast-closing 2nd to HOY in Brdrs Cup. Close 2nd to HOY runner up at Gulfstream Turf Cap.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So you pretty much answered my question. One allowance win since. Yes, he ran great in the Breeders Cup but he didnt win and never would of beat Wise Dan. I dont know any horse in racing history that is on the list of the great ones with a bunch of seconds, do you?
Wade Teasdale More than 1 year ago
11 races. 5 firsts. 5 seconds (one to HOY Wise Dan and one to HOY runnerup POE) 1 sixth. After out-of-gate mugging and coming from last to sixth on fractured leg. Kentucky Derby Winner Dubai World Cup Classic Winner 2011 Eclipse Winner: 3 Yr Old Male Massive investment in 2013 by experts -- Arrowfield Stud and Darley. I'm not sure that you and I are better judges of race horses than Arrowfield, Darley and the Eclipse voters.
Wade Teasdale More than 1 year ago
"I dont know any horse in racing history that is on the list of the great ones with a bunch of seconds, do you?" Seabiscuit? 33 Wins, 15 Places, 13 Shows.
jttf More than 1 year ago
vic stauffer said that joel rosario was making a big mistake leaving california and he would be back soon. better stick to announcing. because your jockey agent talent, just lost some points.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yickkkkssss! I dont want Vic Stauffer as an announcer either. He sucks big time. The guy is a nice person BUT cant do much more than that. Vic S. failed as a jockey agent in California and did questionable calls when he did work as an jockey agent and is less than average calling races at Hollywood Park. Just to show you how bad he was, Gulfstream kicked him out calling races for them years ago. They are the smart ones! We Southern Californians are FORCED to hear Vic say "straight and strong" a million more times down the stretch.
pennyandy More than 1 year ago
Congradulatios to local owners who reside in metro New Orleans!
russell More than 1 year ago
I'd be surprised if AK runs again. They won on the world stage and it could hurt his value. Running on a soggy turf at Ascot ain't happening unless its very firm which is unlikely.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
To Brother B (below) who is saying "adios" to AK because he isn't returning to the US. It may be Adios from the likes of you and myself who have no skin in the Animal Kingdom game. But for the connections, thi$ game is just getting $tarted...FOR REAL! ;-)))
redboy More than 1 year ago
Once AK gets to Australia, He;ll have a little Caviar! Animal Kingdom x Black Caviar = Black Kingdom !
Brandon Layer More than 1 year ago
Anyone know the attendence?
Robert Walton More than 1 year ago
Does a win outside the USA count towards the Eclipse Award?
russell More than 1 year ago
Probably yes since the count all earnings on the horses like Curlin, Cigar, etc...
Robert Walton More than 1 year ago
AK needs to run his last race in the Breeder's Cup Classic to have a chance a Horse of the Year.