Royal Ascot and Animal Kingdom

2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is quickly becoming the English favorite with both bettors and fans for the June 18 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Between his work outs in England along with his Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup wins, everyone including the English bettors is thinking he will close out his career with a win.

Animal Kingdom will be the first Kentucky Derby winner to race at Royal Ascot since 1935 Triple Crown winner Omaha, who raced in the two-and-a-half mile Ascot Gold Cup in 1936. Omaha lost that race to a filly named Quashed, the winner of the Epsom Oaks the year before.

When asked about the injuries that kept Animal Kingdom on the sidelines, trainer Graham Motion said, “I never lost faith in the horse, that would be silly. Of course, I sometimes questioned myself if we were doing the right thing by the horse, bringing him back to the races after his physical issues. But I felt very strongly about the horse and the level of talent he possesses. Bringing him back, off a long layoff for the Breeders’ Cup Mile, I could not have done that if I did not believe in the horse.

Some people in the States are still skeptical about the horse, perhaps because he is lightly raced. I think the fact that he has had to deal with some physical issues only makes his record more remarkable. And really, his performances in all his races, even his losses, have been good. He only just got beaten in the Preakness Stakes, after a slow start. His Belmont was hampered by the start. He won his return race at Gulfstream on the turf, and ran a great race in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he was a little unlucky. Jay Hovdey (Daily Racing Form) commented that he is the most versatile horse since Ack Ack. He has won a Grade 1 on both the dirt and synthetics, on two continents.”

When asked how Graham Motion feels the horse racing world will remember Animal Kingdom, he said “I’ll never train another horse like him. I could never get another horse as good as him. Winning Grade 1s on the dirt and synthetics, in Kentucky and Dubai, it’s just amazing. If he won at Royal Ascot, surely there would be no more skeptics. I don’t know where that would place him compared to other horses, but winning on the different surfaces, different continents, no horse has done that.”