LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 07: Jockey John Velazquez, riding Animal Kingdom #16, is escourted onto the track by an outrider during the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The Derby winner is back. Animal Kingdom, making his first start as a four-year-old and his only start before running in next month's Dubai World Cup, easily pulled away to beat a group of Optional Claiming/N3X horses at Gulfstream Park this afternoon. Breaking last in the field of six, Animal Kingdom was reserved in the early stages while the pacesetters carved out moderate splits through the opening half-mile. He began making his move on the outside of horses as the field made their way towards the far turn. By the time the field reached the mid-way point on the turn, Animal Kingdom was challenging for the lead under a very still John Velazquez. At the top of the stretch, Animal Kingdom briefly dueled with two of his rivals before surging to the wire under and soft hand-ride.
You can view a replay of the race at Gulfstream Park's YouTube channel (Link).
Thanks to the wonderful world of Trakus, we have some really nice data to help us breakdown Animal Kingdom's race this afternoon. The first piece of information to look at are the raw times for the race and for Animal Kingdom, along with Animal Kingdom's internal splits, which I've summarized below.
Animal Kingdom Splits:
Animal Kingdom Internal Splits:
Animal Kingdom showed very little early speed, clicking off a first 1/2 mile of just 49.69 seconds, but from that point on he ran faster and faster than any other horse in the field, all while covering the most ground. He clicked off a third quarter split of 23.35, followed by a blazing 22.71 in the fourth quarter and a 5.68 split over the final 1/16th of a mile. Those are some serious splits over the final portion of the race, and while he didn't go tremendously fast in the early going, it's not like Animal Kingdom ran a 53 second half mile. Add to the impressive nature of his race is the fact that Animal Kingdom covered 5,690 feet during the race. That was the exact same amount of the last place horse, Midnight Mischief, and anywhere from 30 to 50 feet further than his other four rivals. Had he covered that same amount of ground as all of his rivals he would have won by a lot more than two lengths.
Animal Kingdom's impressive display was followed up by a thoroughly dominating performance by Force Freeze in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. Breaking widest of the field of eight, Force Freeze found himself in a perfect stalking position through extremely quick early fractions. He took command of the field near the top of the stretch and coasted home under light urging to win by 3 1/4 lengths at the wire. Troilus got up to take the place spot, while Capt. Candyman Can rounded out the trifecta.
Force Freeze Internal Splits: