Bunny's Derby Darlings is a series on my favorite Kentucky Derby contenders.
Part Ten: Animal Kingdom
The Pamplemousse, Eskendereya, and now, Toby’s Corner - all horses I had such high hopes for great Derby performances that never had an opportunity to run for the roses. Learning the news that Toby’s Corner would be scratched from the Derby, due to tenderness in his hind leg, left me with a sad, familiar feeling from the two previous years. Completely admiring the decision to put the horse’s welfare first, I can’t help but feel a deep level of disappointment. Animal Kingdom, Toby’s Corner’s stablemate, remains in the Kentucky Derby, carrying the torch for the Graham Motion stable.
Ranking fourteenth on the Graded Earnings list, Animal Kingdom has started four times, entering the Derby off an impressive win in the GIII Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes. His three other races were non-stakes, placing first once, and second twice.
Against a strong field in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, including Derby starters, Twinspired, and Decisive Moment, he broke from the fourth gate with jockey Alan Garcia. After being squeezed to the back of the field, Animal Kingdom had plenty of dirt kicked into his face by the horses ahead.
Down the backstretch, Animal Kingdom quickly began passing horses with a fluid stride. Moving with great speed on the rail, he was neck and neck with Decisive Moment, who led the field, when they straightened for home. Animal Kingdom slowed to run with the eventual second placer for a very short time, and under hard, right-handed urging from Garcia, he raced by Decisive Moment, winning by 2 ¾ lengths.
Animal Kingdom has never started in a race on dirt, but had a strong work on a muddy Churchill Downs surface this week, implying he would take a liking to the track. With the threat of possible thunderstorms at Churchill Downs on Derby day, may lend itself to a friendlier track for Animal Kingdom. Successful horses on synthetics perform best on a muddy dirt surface, as is the same with Turf horses, because the track is softer, similar to Turf and synthetic tracks.
This chestnut colt has an outstanding pedigree, being by one of the world’s third crop leading sires of Graded Stakes horses, Leroidesormeaux (BRZ). Animal Kingdom’s sire is by Candy Stripes, who sired Horse of the Year, Invasor, and was the broodmare sire of the undefeated Candy Ride. Animal Kingdom is out of Daicia (GER), by Acatenango (GER). A member of Animal Kingdom’s family includes Hasili, who was a Broodmare of the Year, foaling Dansili, and Champs Elysees.
This colt looks as if he has more in his tank and obviously improving heading into the Kentucky Derby.