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Who is Animal Kingdom?
If you really want to know where Animal Kingdom came from, you have to hear his original trainer discuss the 2011 Kentucky Derby champion's humble beginnings. DRF's Marcus Hersh did just that and had this to report from Wayne Catalano, who guided Animal Kingdom through his maiden days before losing the horse to trainer Graham Motion:
"It was Wayne Catalano who helped sculpt Animal Kingdom from the raw animal who shipped to Arlington early last summer into the promising beast who sharply won a maiden race in his second start last fall at Keeneland. By the time Animal Kingdom left Arlington, Catalano claims he was calling the colt his Derby horse. But when Animal Kingdom got here, he had only raw talent. Randy Bradshaw, a former racetrack trainer, broke the horse and sent him to Catalano after four workouts of three and four furlongs at a training center. In the comments section of the shipping sheet that accompanied Animal Kingdom upon his Arlington arrival, Bradshaw had this to say:
'Colt trains well but has not put much effort into his works. Probably will take a race to get him interested. He definitely is a 1 1/8, 1 1/4-mile horse. . . . He needs company as he is lazy!'" Read more on Animal Kingdom's beginnings
Unlike most American horses, Animal Kingdom wasn't bred strictly for short-term speed. He was bred for distance, a fact that makes him such a promising contender for the last two legs of the Triple Crown. DRF Handicapping Editor Dan Illman has more on the pedigree of the new Derby champ:
"It's refeshing to see Team Valor's commitment to breeding for stamina. Of course, they needed foreign bloodlines to do it. Leroidesanimaux, the sire of Animal Kingdom, was bred in Brazil. His sire, Candy Stripes, is by French-bred Blushing Groom out of French-bred Bubble Company. Dissemble, the dam of Leroidesanimaux, was bred in England. Her sire is Ahonoora, by Lorenzaccio, by Klarion." Animal Kingdom's Pedigree a Throwback
Luck always plays a big role in anything related to racing, so it's only natural that John Velazquez would win his first Kentucky Derby in 13 tries on a horse he wasn't even supposed to ride. Velazquez lost his mount when the favored Uncle Mo scratched. Enter Lady Luck: Robby Albarado fell and broke his nose during a post-parade accident on Wednesday, and by Friday he would be removed in favor of Velazquez. DRF's David Grening has the story:
"Albarado was injured Wednesday when his mount, Smoke'n Al, dumped him and kicked him in the face, breaking his nose. Albarado did not ride Thursday or Friday. Shortly after Uncle Mo was scratched Friday, it was announced that Velazquez would ride Animal Kingdom. Irwin said that by not riding Friday, he felt Albarado may not be 100 percent to ride the Derby, even if he returned to the saddle Saturday.
'We thought that was a risk we weren’t prepared to take,' Irwin said. 'When Johnny came open, we decided to go with him. We just didn’t dump Robby to go get John, I wouldn’t do anything like that. I like Robby, he’s won a lot of good races for us; he's a hell of a pro. This thing just came up bad. Believe me, we will find a way to make this up to Robby.'" Read more on Velazquez and the post-Derby settlement with Albarado
The Maverick: Barry Irwin
You saw him on national TV blasting the credibility of trainers everywhere, so by now you already know how unorthodox Barry Irwin can be. He is no different in his handling of his horses, reports Glenye Cain Oakford:
"Irwin, 68, has been tweaking the nose of racing’s establishment for a quarter-century, first as a racing journalist and now as the owner of one of the sport’s most successful public syndicates. He took a path to the 2011 Derby that even he called strange, and, characteristically, he broke some Derby rules when he won the race with a lightly raced homebred who had never run on dirt and whose pedigree looked more suited to European turf racing. Irwin has a reputation as a maverick. He is outspoken, opportunistic, and global in his view of horse racing and breeding.
'Here's my opinion about American breeding, OK?' Irwin said. 'It's all about fashion, it’s all about trying to minimize or eliminate risk. So, in America, what people did for years and years was breed to sell a foal that could get a lot of moneywithout any risk. So by breeding to first-year stallions, that worked. Sticking with traditional Kentucky pedigrees, that worked. And anybody that stepped out of line didn’t make any money at all because the stock wasn’t fashionable.'" Irwin wins Kentucky Derby the maverick way
The Trainer: Graham Motion
Before he became famous for training a Derby champ but on the tail end of a banner 2010 year, Motion was profiled by DRF's Ryan Goldberg and took note of the trainer's spotless drug-testing record.
"If the spotlight casts its glare on Motion, what people will find is that his success has not come at a price. Within an American Thoroughbred industry that grapples with its drug problem, Motion’s record is clear. Among the top 20 trainers by purses won, only two -- Christophe Clement and Motion -- have never been cited for a medication violation. For Motion, that’s nearly 8,000 career starts." Motion finds success as trainer and family man
Even after winning the Derby, DRF's Marty McGee found Motion to be his same humble hard-working self:
"Graham Motion barely slept in the euphoric 48 hours after he sent out Animal Kingdom to win the Derby last Saturday at Churchill Downs, although when he did, his staff was there for him – as always.
With more than 110 runners in his stable, Motion has assembled a large cast of employees, some of whom he credits with strong supporting roles in the Derby success of Animal Kingdom. Some have worked for Motion since he started his stable in 1993, well before he and his wife, Anita, started a family, which now includes their 14-year-old daughter, Jane, and 8-year-old son, Marcus, known better as Chappy." Motion shares Kentucky Derby win with his team
Steven Crist captured the level of surprise in his live Kentucky Derby blog on May 7. Prior to the race, Crist had Animal Kingdom listed for Race 11 on his stakes sheet with the comment "Another complete mystery on dirt." This is what Crist had to say after the race:
"If John Velazquez was going to win this Derby, it was supposed to be on Uncle Mo. If Graham Motion was going to win it, it was supposed to be with Toby's Corner. If a horse with only four career starts was going to win the Derby, it was supposed to be Dialed In. If it was going to be a horse who had never raced on dirt, it was supposed to be Master of Hounds. But it was Animal Kingdom who did all of the above, and congrats to him and those who backed him at $43.80."
The new voice of the Triple Crown, Larry Collmus, called his first Derby this year and had this to say on whether he saw Animal Kingdom coming: "I called [Animal Kingdom] on the turn and saw he was progressing. It's tough to see everything. You try to focus on where you are in the call and at the same time look for what may be about to happen. It's a delicate balance, especially when there are 19 horses, 165,000 people are screaming, and your legs are shaking like crazy from the excitement and adrenaline."
Animal Kingdom's Race History
1. Animal Kingdom made a promising debut on Sept. 18, 2010, at Arlington Park in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race. Trailing big for most of the way, he closed well late to finish second by 2 3/4 lengths.
2. On Oct. 10, Animal Kingdom won his maiden with a 1 1/8-mile victory at Keeneland, clearing late for a three-length victory.
3. In his first race under new trainer Motion, Animal Kingdom lost by a head on March 11, 2011, at Gulfstream Park in a one-mile turf race.
4. Back on Polytrack for his fourth race, he won the Spiral Stakes on March 26, his final Derby prep outing.
5. The Kentucky Derby! If you had him on your ticket, sit back and enjoy the replay. Watch Kentucky Derby replay