Royal Ascot was no cup a tea for Derby winner Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom on the backside of Churchill Downs

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom was the favorite to win the Queen Anne Stakes yesterday as the United Kingdom begins its highlighted racing season at Royal Ascot. Horse racing fans around the world watched.

Animal Kingdom was ridden by jockey John Velazquez, trained by Graham Motion, and was bred by Team Valor, the group that was founded by Barry Irwin, a former Daily Racing Form writer who has become a prominent leader in America’s thoroughbred racing industry.

The last Kentucky Derby winner to make it to Royal Ascot was Omaha, who landed the 1935 race at Churchill Downs and went on to claim the US Triple Crown. The following year Omaha was shipped to Britain and placed in the care of Cecil Boyd-Rochfort, who was to become Sir Henry Cecil’s stepfather, with the Ascot Gold Cup as his aim. He won his first two races on turf at Kempton and was sent off 11-8 favorite for the Gold Cup, but was caught and headed in the last strides by the filly Quashed.

Animal Kingdom’s lifetime record is 11 races, 5 wins and 5 seconds. His biggest wins: 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup. He is the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby having never previously raced on Dirt.

The fact he ever raced again after his 2011 Belmont Stakes injury is amazing. Two screws were inserted in his left hind cannon bone. Then in 2012, he suffered a fracture in the same place and was off for eight months, but he returned with a second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in the fall of 2012. Then came the triumph in the 2013 Dubai World Cup.

But, Tuesday was not to be his day. Animal Kingdom and John Velazquez were in contention for the first half of the one-mile race, but dropped back as the pace of the race quickened. The Aidan O’Brien trained Declaration of War won the race.

After the Quees Anne Stakes, trainer Graham Motion said, “”I am disappointed obviously. Johnny (Velazquez) had to fight him a little bit early, which made me worry, and said at the half-mile pole he started to ask him to run and there wasn’t much there. He said (the course) rode a bit softer than it walked, but I cannot really use that as an excuse. I would say that is probably it for the horse (his last race).”

We wish Animal Kingdom the best in his retirement and we hope to see him in Kentucky when he starts standing at Darley.