Richard Linihan: Animal Kingdom returns for last season
BY RICHARD LINIHAN Horse Racing
Saturday, February 09, 2013
2/09/13 at 5:39 AM
THE GOOD news is that 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will return for one final season of racing this year.
The bad news is that if you want to see him race this year, this weekend will probably be the last time you will get to see him race in the United States.
Animal Kingdom, who won the Derby as a long shot two years ago, will be racing Saturday in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap in Florida.
The 5-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux owned by 20 investors put together by Team Valor, have sold the breeding rights to Arrowfield Stud, a breeding farm in Australia. Because Australia begins its breeding season in September, that leaves only about three races this year that Animal Kingdom can squeeze in before he is retired to stud. Two of those races are expected to be overseas.
Saturday's Gulfstream Park Handicap, a mile-and-an-eighth race over the turf course, will serve as a prep race for Animal Kingdom running in the $10 million World Cup in Dubai, each year the world's richest race. That will be run at a mile and a quarter on a synthetic surface. After that, Animal Kingdom is expected to conclude his career in England.
This Derby winner already has been an amazing story, having been laid up with injuries the past two years. Most horses would have been retired by now, but Animal Kingdom's syndicate bought him to watch him race and he proved in his last comeback that he is healthy and raring to go.
After almost 300 days off last year, Animal Kingdom's first race back to the track was in the Breeders' Cup Mile on the turf against some of the best horses in the world, including 2012 Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Some say that had Animal Kingdom found racing room earlier in the Mile, he would have beaten Wise Dan and knocked him out of the Horse of the Year throne.
Wise Dan took the lead at the top of the stretch in the Mile and had clear sailing while Animal Kingdom waited and waited and waited behind horses on the rail under jockey Rafael Bejarano. When daylight finally prevailed, Breeders' Cup voice Trevor Denman practically shouted, "It's Animal Kingdom like a rocket!" He came up a little more than a length short against Wise Dan, but definitely showed he still has the heart to win that day.
Now, trainer Graham Motion says his 5-year-old star is sitting on a big race again.
He will need it against the likes of Point of Entry and Unbridled Command. Point of Entry won three consecutive Grade 1 races last year on the turf before finishing only a half-length behind Little Mike in the Breeders' Cup Turf at a mile and a half. Point of Entry's three Grade 1 wins came in the Man O' War, Sword Dancer and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. All those races were at a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter.
Unbridled Command has won five races in a row coming into his 2013 debut in this race.
Unbridled Command's last win came in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby by a length and a half. He also may be racing in the United States for the final time.
And if you really want to play a longshot, Salto appears to be the best early-speed horse. He will attempt to steal this race wire-to-wire.
The biggest race on the card that will be simulcast at Fair Meadows in Tulsa, Will Rogers Downs in Claremore and Remington Park in Oklahoma City will be the $500,000 Donn Handicap, also at Gulfstream, for older horses on the dirt.
Original Print Headline: Animal Kingdom back for last season
Richard Linihan is the marketing director at Fair Meadows of Tulsa.