KENTUCKY DERBY 2011: A Closer Look At Animal Kingdom

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07: Jockey John Velazquez, riding Animal Kingdom #16, leads the field across the finish line to win the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Let's take a closer look at the pedigree and racing history of yesterday's winner of the Kentucky Derby, Animal Kingdom.

Pedigree

Unlike a lot of recent Kentucky Derby winners, Animal Kingdom possesses a strong influence of stamina on the bottom half of his pedigree to go along with the speed/stamina mix on the top.

Animal Kingdom is a son of champion turf miler Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) out of an Acategnango (GER) mare (Dalicia (GER)). Leroidesanimaux won the Eclipse Award as Champion Male Turf Horse in 2005 after winning the Kilro Mile, the Fourstardave and the Woodbine Mile; he set the track record at Saratoga while winning the Fourstardave. Leroidesanimaux's name is a combination of four French words - Le roi des animaux - roughly meaning "King of the Animals". Among the major wins in his career:

  • Grade 1 Citation Handicap, 8.5 furlongs (2004)
  • Grade 1 Kilroe Mile, 8.0 furlongs (2005)
  • Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, 8.0 furlongs (2005)
  • Grade 2 Forestardave Handicap, 8.5 furlongs (2005)
  • Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap, 8.6 furlongs (2004
  • Grade 3 Morvich Handicap, 6.5 furlongs (2004)

Leroidesanimaux finished second to Artie Schiller in the 2005 Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont Park after suffering from sore feet leading up to the race.

The top half of the pedigree is interesting in terms of the versatility seen by some of the colts with similar influences in their pedigree. Leroidesanimaux was sired by Candy Stripes, the broodmare sire of Candy Ride (ARG). Candy Ride has produced notable runners Sidney's Candy and Twirling Candy, colts that have run well on both dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces. While Leroidesanimaux was known for his dominance on turf, it doesn't seem out of the relm of possibility that he would have taken to other surfaces given his pedigree.

(Further note: Candy Stripes also sired Invasor (ARG), Horse of the Year in 2005 and winner of of the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup on dirt. Just more evidence that Animal Kingdom is an excellent combination of turf, dirt, speed and stamina pedigrees).

Damsire Acatenango (GER) raced in Germany and France in the mid 1980s and won thirteen straight races during 1985 and 1986. Among the prestigious races Acatenango won during his career:

  • Group 1 Deutsches Derby, 12.0 furlongs (1985)
  • Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, 12.0 furlongs (1986)
  • Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden, 12.0 furlongs (1986 & 1987)
  • Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin, 13.0 furlongs (1986)
  • Group 1 Aral-Pokal (now Rheinland-Pokal), 12.0 furlongs (1985 & 1986)
  • Group 2 Gerling Preis, 12.0 furlongs (1986 & 1987)
  • Group 2 Grosser Preis der Badischen Wirtschaft, 11.0 furlongs (1986)
  • Group 2 Hansa-Preis, 12.0 furlongs (1987)
  • Group 2 Union-Rennen, 11.0 furlongs (1985)
  • Group 3 Grosser Hertie-Preis (now Bavarian Classic), 11.0 furlongs (1985)

Acatenango was the leading sire in Germany in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001.

Animal Kingdom's sire provides him with a decent mix of speed and stamina, while his damsire is a heavy influence of stamina. According to Bris Sire Stats, the offspring of Acatenango have an average winning distance of 10.5 furlongs, a number rarely produced by American-based stallions. The offspring of Leroidesanimaux sport an average winning distance of 6.8 furlongs.

Animal Kingdom's dam, Dalicia, has produced only one other foal, the unraced Thursby (by Mr. Greely).

Pedigree-wise, we should expect Animal Kingdom to fare well at Pimlico, and he should absolutely love the mile and a half at Belmont. Additionally, he now owns graded stakes win over both dirt and synthetic surfaces and he ran well in his only try on grass, finishing second by a head.

Race Record

9/18/2010: Animal Kingdom makes his debut in the 9th race at Arlington Park, a Maiden Special Weight scheduled for 8.5 furlongs on the turf course. The race comes off the turf and is run over Arlington's Polytrack.

Animal Kingdom broke slowly from the gate, settled in near the back of the pack and produced a strong run in the lane to finish 2nd to Wilcox Inn as the 5/2 favorite.

10/23/2010: A month after his runner-up debut, Animal Kingdom is entered in another Maiden Special Weight race, this one at Keeneland at a mile and an eighth on the main Polytrack. Breaking much more alertly, Animal Kingdom stalks the early pace, moves to the lead near the top of the stretch and pulls away to win by 3 1/4 lengths at the wire over Bonaroo and Grind. Fourth place horse Private Prize came back to win at Churchill a few weeks later.

3/3/2011: After a freshening over the winter, Animal Kingdom makes his three-year-old debut in an 50k Optional Claiming/N1X Allowance race at Gulfstream Park at a mile on the turf course. After breaking awkwardly from the gate, Animal Kingdom settles in to race mid-pack, sweeps three-wide off of the turn and, after a long stretch drive, finishes a head behind wire-to-wire winner Powhatan County.

3/26/2011: Animal Kingdom is entered against graded stakes competition for the first time when he lines up in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes on the Polytrack at Turfway Park. Sent to post as the 3/1 second choice in the betting, Animal Kingdom broke slowly and race near the back of the pack through the first quarter mile. A big move on the backstretch put him near the leaders entering the far turn, where he was able to run to the front following a five-wide move. Animal Kingdom passed a tiring Decisive Moment with a furlong to go and pulled away to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Twinspired rallied to finish a well-clear third.

Four races, four different tracks, three Polytrack surfaces, one turf race...and in all four races Animal Kingdom ran credibly. The transfer of that form to the dirt of Churchill Downs was certainly something to ponder, but this colt proved (once again) that he can handle a wide variety of racing circumstances.

It's a bit exciting to think of the possibilities for this colt when you consider his ability to handle multiple surfaces.

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