Saturday, May 7, 2011 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, Ky., May 7, 2011 – Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) winner Animal Kingdom brought home bragging rights to Turfway Park Saturday, winning the 137th Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (G1) at Churchill Downs by a decisive 2 3/4 lengths.
Animal Kingdom secured his spot in the Derby field on the strength of graded earnings banked in the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway on March 26.
The historic win is the first Kentucky Derby victory for trainer H. Graham Motion, the first for jockey John Velazquez, the first for owner Team Valor International, the first for a horse whose final winning prep came on an all-weather surface, in this case Turfway's Polytrack, and the first for a horse who had never before raced on dirt.
"We are thrilled to have prepped the Derby winner at Turfway," said track president Robert N. Elliston. "Our congratulations go out to all the connections—Team Valor, Graham, and Johnny V. We are proud Barry Irwin and Graham decided to bring their contender to Turfway to prep for the most important race of his career.
"We're also proud that the outstanding record of safety Turfway has built racing on Polytrack has helped give trainers the confidence to prep here. And we’re very happy to put to rest the myth that a horse that excels on an all-weather surface like Polytrack can't take that same form to the highest levels on dirt. Animal Kingdom is a splendid, well-trained colt and a deserving winner, and he got a smart ride from a skilled jockey."
Duplicating the closing strategy that gained him the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes, Animal Kingdom raced early toward the back of the bunched first flight, about in the middle of the field. Velazquez guided Animal Kingdom between horses heading into the final turn and then swung outside entering the stretch. He was fourth leaving the turn, third with a furlong to go, and then roared through the stretch, running down Nehro, who was making a move of his own, and a game Shackleford, who had led throughout.
Nehro held second, a neck better than Mucho Macho Man. Shackleford was another three-quarters of a length back to complete the Superfecta. Final time for the mile-and-a-quarter race was 2:02.04. Sent off at 20-1, Animal Kingdom returned $43.80.
The winner's share of the Derby's $2 million purse boosted Animal Kingdom’s career earnings to $1,738,700. The colt is a chestnut son of the Brazilian-bred multiple Grade 1 winner Leroidesanimaux out of the German-bred Group 3 winner Dalicia.
Street Sense finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland’s Polytrack before going on to win the Derby in 2007.
Turfway has prepped one other Kentucky Derby winner, Lil E. Tee in 1992. In 2007, Hard Spun prepped at Turfway on Polytrack before finishing second in the Derby, third in the Preakness Stakes and fourth in the Belmont Stakes.