Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom wins at 25/1

Kentucky Derby

Team Valor's Animal Kingdom takes the Derby at 25/1

Animal Kingdom, a near 21-1 shot trained by Englishman Graham Motion, roared down the stretch under John Velazquez to win the 137th Kentucky Derby on Saturday in front of a record crowd of more than 164,000 at Churchill Downs. Irish contender Mater Of Hounds performed with credit for Ballydoyle, staying on to be fifth, albeit about five and a half lengths off an emphatic winner. “It was a great race for his first time on dirt – we’re delighted,” said Aidan O’Brien.

Animal Kingdom was making his dirt debut.

The son of Brazilian-bred miler Leroidesanimaux carried the colours of high-profile syndicate international ownership group Team Valor, a regular buyer of South African breds and of 2011 Breeders’ Cup winner Pluck.

Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin transferred their entire string to Cambridge-born Motion over the winter – among them Animal Kingdom, who started out with Wayne Catalano.

Animal Kingdom took charge of Saturday’s $2 million event with a powerful charge down the stretch to score by two and three-quarter lengths over well-fancied Nehro, with Mucho Macho Man taking third ahead of gallant pacemaker Shackleford.

The 5.2-1 favourite Dialed In could finish only eighth after trailing the entire field Zenyatta-style until well after halfway and making only moderate late progress, undone by the lack of the customary breakneck pace up front. The final time was 2m02.04s.

Dialed In was one place ahead of Pants On Fire, aboard whom Rosie Napravnik was bidding to become the first woman to win America’s most celebrated race, which took place in front of a crowd of 164,858, beating the previous best of 163,628 recorded in 1974.

This massive crowd witnessed a result tinged with irony, as both trainer and jockey had suffered the disappointment of losing the horses they had expected to be their number one contenders in the week before the race.

Velazquez was booked to ride Uncle Mo for his main employer Todd Pletcher until the two-year-old champion was finally ruled out on Friday morning.

Motion also trains Toby’s Corner, who beat Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial and was a leading Derby fancy until he, too, was ruled out of contention owing to a hind-leg injury.

Motion, whose father Michael was former US representative for sales company Tattersalls, had been close to tears earlier this week when discussing the absence of Toby’s Corner.

“It’s been pretty emotional but this is just extraordinary,” said the 46-year-old. “I felt really good about both my horses – as good as I’ve felt in a long time about anything, so it was an odd feeling to come here with a live horse but still have a sense of disappointment.”

Motion, who moved to the States 30 years ago at the age of 16 with his father, is no stranger to big-race success, having saddled a pair of Breeders’ Cup winners in Better Talk Now, who took the Turf in 2004, and Shared Account in last year’s Filly & Mare Turf.

Based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, he has more than 1,000 winners to his name in North America – and now he has the biggest race of them all.

“The horse was just so powerful today,” he added.”He’s just a magnificent animal but obviously I wasn’t sure he would handle the switch over to dirt. He’s an amazing horse.”

Robby Albarado would have every right to be kicking the cat on Saturday night as he was due to partner Animal Kingdom until breaking his nose in a fall on Wednesday.

Although Albarado was in action on Saturday’s card, riding Sassy Image to win a Grade 1 contest, he was still jocked off by owners Team Valor in favour of Velazquez, 39.

The latter was suitably humble after riding the first Kentucky Derby winner of a glittering career. “Words cannot describe how you feel but I do feel really bad for Robby, winning the Derby when he was here,” said the Puerto Rican native.

“I know he got hurt but I really hope he was there riding this with me. I didn’t think he was coming to ride today so I did speak to him – the only thing he said to me was ‘You’re riding a good horse’.”

Velazquez, twice an Eclipse Award winner as outstanding jockey, has been no stranger to Kentucky Derby misfortune himself, having been associated with ante-post favourites who have gone wrong in each of the last three seasons in Eskendereya,Quality Road and Uncle Mo.

“I guess it was meant to be – things happen for a reason,” said Velazquez. “A lot of people say to me that I’ve had a lot of bad luck in the Derby, three years back to back.

“It was such a disappointment to lose Uncle Mo but I’m glad I got on the good side of it after having three horses in three years who have been scratched. All of a sudden I get on this horse but you definitely feel bad for Robby.

“This business is a rollercoaster and I’ve been on the other end as well. But I told Robby, ‘don’t worry if I win this race, I’m going to take care of you’.”

Looking at how the race unfolded, Velazquez added: “I had a really good trip – it was a little tight in the first turn and by the three-eighths pole I was in a tight spot but I held my ground. Once I pulled him out by the eighth pole, I knew he was gone.”

Animal Kingdom, who wonthe Grade 3 Spiral Stakes on Polytrack at Turfway park in northern Kentucky on his previous outing, is now likely to head to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown in two weeks’ time.

Master Of Hounds could also be back in the States – for the Belmont Stakes over 1m4f in June.

Garrett Gomez was pleased with the son of Kingmambo, who had cleared quarantine only on Thursday.

Sent off nearly 17-1, he was settled just inside Animal Kingdom on the rail in the early stages towards the rear of the main body of the field before passing several horses in the last two furlongs.

“I really like him,” said Gomez. “It was a great run for his first time on dirt. We had a really good trip – who would have thought they would slow it down to 48 and change?

“Down the backstretch they threw the airbrakes on and it cost us. We were at the mercy of the pace but he ran sensationally through the dirt. I’m looking forward to riding him in the Belmont Stakes.”

Connections of runner-up Nehro were delighted with their representative, ridden more prominently than usual by Corey Nakatani.

“The little horse just ran unbelievable,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “I sure would have loved to have won it but I was very excited he ran second. There was way less pace than I thought there would be and thank goodness Corey was smart enough to take advantage of that.”

Kathy Ritvo, trainer of Mucho Macho Man, is eyeing the Preakness. “He’s only a June 15 foal and he’s only going to get better,” she said.

Dialed In’s trainer Nick Zito was understandably downbeat after the horse he has repeatedly described as a gift from God finished down the field.

“He was in the back of the pack – he was dead last and they just never came back,” he said. “They went 1:13 and never came back.”

Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch pulled up lame after finishing 15th of the 19 runners. He will require surgery after suffering a lateral condylar fracture but vets said the situation was not an emergency. – extracts from Racing Post and Thoroughbred Times

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Team Valor International top list of  leading North American owners

Animal Kingdom won the Gr1 Kentucky Derby, helping to boost Barry Irwin’s Team Valor International to the top of the list of leading North American owners by purse earnings for the week ended May 7.
The Versailles, Kentucky-based syndicate group and their private trainer, Graham Motion, also enjoyed a win at Belmont Park on Saturday with Daveron (Ger), who captured the Gr3 Beaugay Stakes, but winning the Derby was a defining moment for 68-year-old Irwin, a former Turf writer who is in his 25th year of racing horses for a syndicate.
Animal Kingdom is the fourth Derby starter for Team Valor as owner or co-owner and first as a breeder.
Team Valor acquired Animal Kingdom’s dam, German Group 3 winner Dalicia (Ger), by Acatanango, in 2005 at the Baden-Badener  Auktionsgesellschaft (BBAG) fall sale and campaigned her in the U.S. with trainer Neil Drysdale as Team Valor and Richard Haisfield’s NeverTell Racing. In five U.S. starts, she won an optional claiming race at Hollywood Park.
Haisfield and Irwin also were involved in the later stage of the racing career of Animal Kingdom’s sire, 2005 champion turf male Leroidesanimaux (Brz), and Irwin brokered the deal to stand him at the Haisfield’s Stonewall Farm stallion operation.
Richard Haisfield and his wife, Audrey, were part of Animal Kingdom’s ownership until Team Valor International bought them out for $100,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale and formed the partnership to race him.
Team Valor has several mares in a broodmare band at Craig and Holly Bandoroff’s Denali Stud near Paris, Kentucky, and the Bandoroffs are members of the Animal Kingdom partnership. The Bandoroffs also owned a portion of his dam until she was sold in foal to Mr. Greeley to Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai Stud for $397,316 at the Tattersalls December mares sale from the consignment of European Sales Management, agent.
“I know everybody wants me to say my whole life was changed, but I feel exactly the same,” Irwin said after the Derby. “My major comment would be I’m just happy to own a horse this good. That’s what means something to me. I’m not doing this just to make a whole lot of money. It is so tough to make money in the horse business it’s not even funny. I’m doing it because it’s in my blood and I love it. It’s all I’ve ever done.
“We’ve made some history, and I like making history. It means something to me. I started writing a book once, and I guess I’m going to have to write the damn book now.”

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Kentucky Derby (G1)
Churchill Downs, May 7, $2,171,800, 3yo, 10f, fast, 2:02.04.
1- ANIMAL KINGDOM, 126, Ch. c. 3, Leroidesanimaux (Brz)—Dalicia
(Ger), by Acatenango (Ger). Owner, Team Valor International; breeder, Team Valor (Ky.); trainer, H. Graham Motion; jockey, John R. Velazquez. $1,411,800.Lifetime: 5-3-2-0, $1,738,700. $100,000 2009 KEESEP.
2 – Nehro 126, B. c. 3, Mineshaft—The Administrator, by Afleet. Owner,Zayat Stables, LLC; breeder, Mt. Brilliant Farm LLC (Ky.); trainer,Steven M. Asmussen. $400,000.
3 – Mucho Macho Man 126, B. c. 3, Macho Uno SD—Ponche de Leona,by Ponche. Owner, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream TeamOne Racing Stable; breeder, John D. Rio & Carole A. Rio (Fl.);trainer, Katherine Ritvo. $200,000.
Margins: 2 3/4, neck, 3/4;
Odds: 20.90, 8.50, 9.30.
Also ran: Shackleford 126 ($100,000), Master of Hounds 126 ($60,000), Santiva 126, Brilliant Speed 126, Dialed In 126, Pants On Fire 126, Twice the Appeal 126, Soldat 126, Stay Thirsty 126, Derby Kitten 126, Decisive Moment 126, Archarcharch 126,Midnight Interlude 126, Twinspired 126, Watch Me Go 126,
Comma to the Top 126.

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