Regardless of how Animal Kingdom does in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot on Tuesday, his appearance is a win for American racing, writes Pat Cummings:
The fact that an intact Kentucky Derby winner is still racing, and successfully, is a massive boost to American racing, whether he’s been in America or not. The son of brilliant turf miler Leroidesanimaux is a winner on dirt, turf, and all-weather, and a G1 winner on two of those surfaces, while G1 placed on grass. While having started only eleven times in his career, it’s the last four starts on his ledger, from 2012 and 2013, that stand out – mostly because Kentucky Derby winners are so rarely seen around, let alone in the winner’s circle, in the years after their Derby tally.
He went out for his last gallop this morning.
6/18/13 Update: Oh, too bad — an 11th place finish wasn’t the wished for exit, but the horse has delivered in enough big races — across continents and racing surfaces and years — for there to be no regrets. Thanks for the memories, Animal Kingdom. (Watch the Queen Anne Stakes replay.)
6/19/13 Addendum: Sure, blame the filly: “I could see him transform from a focused competitor to a sex machine” (PDF). One whiff of Elusive Kate in the paddock, and Animal Kingdom’s racing career was over, his stud career begun.
Welcome to the bizarre, through-the-looking-glass world in which talented horses and their conflicted owners and trainers try to do business these days. As domestic prizes continue to contract, massive international purses still dangle on the distant horizons. Even the most timid practitioners of the Thoroughbred sport are tempted to fling inhibitions to the wind and fly to the far corners of the racing globe.
In five years, this trend won’t seem bizarre, but inevitable. We’re witnessing the emergence of an elite international racing circuit that runs from Royal Ascot to the Dubai World Cup, with stops in America, Australia, France, Hong Kong, and Japan on the schedule between.