Barry Irwin leads Animal Kingdom following victory in the Kentucky Derby
(Photo : Team Valor International)
16 January 2012
Summerhill Stud CEOWe got back from paradise this morning, no cellphones, no radio reception and no newspapers for a fortnight, and completely oblivious of America’s Eclipse Awards. In a year in which we attended our first Kentucky Derby (Gr1) since Affirmed beat Alydar in what remains the most-remembered renewal of America’s greatest horse race in 1978, it was like old hickory to find the statue for the Champion Three-Year-Old Male had gone to a client of Summerhill. Just a few weeks ago, we posted a piece on the most successful syndicate in racing, where Team Valor surpassed by more than double, anything any other assembly of owners could muster in 2011.
My arrival at the office was instantly gratifying : a heavyweight parcel from the champion American owners was ravenously set upon by the vultures at our management meeting. The reward was a paperweight bearing a photograph of this year’s Kentucky Derby hero, Animal Kingdom, and a couple of petals from the original garland that girds the shoulders of he who prevails in the “Run For The Roses”.
Next thing, we discovered (a little belatedly) that the statue named for one of the greatest progenitors of the breed, Eclipse, for Outstanding Three-Year-Old American Male had gone appropriately, to our man Animal Kingdom. He didn’t only win the biggest one, he was the most consistent of his age and sex in the States, and he must’ve been a serious candidate for Horse Of The Year. Yet he wasn’t the only Summerhill-connected Eclipse Award winner in 2011, as the Breeder Of The Year was Adena Springs for the umpteenth time, and who are also clients of the farm. Hats off to the Stronach family and their team; originally Canadians by trade, they’ve shown America a thing or two on their way to the top of the mountain.
“Animal Kingdom is the result of a mating between the imported Brazilian-bred stallion Leroidesanimaux and the imported German mare Dalicia. I bought Leroi as a racehorse for Stonewall Farm, the same outfit which I sold Medaglia d’Oro and Lawyer Ron to. Leroi and Lawyer Ron both won Eclipse Awards for Stonewall. Medaglia d’Oro sired Rachel Alexandra, who was voted an Eclipse for Horse Of The Year. Dalicia was bought by me at a German public auction at the end of her racing career in Europe. At 400,000 euros, she became the highest-prized racemare ever sold at public auction in The Rhineland. She raced for us, winning in Southern California.
I mated Leroi with Dalicia and it was the mare’s first foal. We bred her back to Mr. Greeley twice, selling her the second time at Tattersalls December Sales in England, where she was bought by Shadai Stud in Japan, the same folks from whom I later bought Sunday Silence’s son Hat Trick, sire in his first crop of last season’s unbeaten, double Group 1-winning European juvenile Champion Dabirsim.
Animal Kingdom was raised at Denali Stud in Paris, Kentucky. As a yearling, he was offered at the Keeneland September Sale, where I bought him for $100,000 and resyndicated him as a racing prospect.
The tall chestnut colt raced twice at 2, both on Polytrack, running second in his debut to a smart colt named Wilxox Inn at Arlington Park in Chicago. He proceeded to win his second start over 1800m by more than 3 lengths at Keeneland in the manner of a colt with a future.
Over the winter the colt grew like the Incredible Hulk, gaining in physical stature to a remarkable degree. His hip broadened, as well as his chest. He flew home to miss in a conditions race in his debut at 3. In his next start, again on Polytrack, he overcame a lot of traffic to post an easy triumph in the $500,000, Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in Kentucky.
Making only his fifth lifetime start, his first in 6 weeks and his first on dirt, Animal Kingdom won the Classic, Grade 1, $2-million Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths. No horse without a previous dirt start had ever won the race. He became the first foal of an imported mare to win the race since Citation in 1948. One had to go back to 1956 to find a horse that had come off of a 6-week layoff to win the race.
In his next start, just 2 weeks later, he got off poorly, fell nearly 20 lengths off the pace, but flew home to miss by less than a length in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of our Triple Crown. He was favored for the race, as he was for his final start at three in the early June renewal of the Belmont Stakes. In this race, he was forced down to his knees and nearly lost his rider after a chain-reaction bumping incident caused him a hock injury that sent him to the sidelines. The jockey that has caused the incident was suspended from riding for 10 days.
Although he was severely compromised at the start, AK made a lot of believers that day, as he put in a swooping move to reach contention in the 2400m race, but alas he couldn’t sustain the move.
In close balloting among 248 writers, racing officials and other media types, he was a narrow 3-point winner for the Eclipse Award as the top 3-year-old colt or gelding to race in the U.S. last season.
He has been training again since December 1. This week he breezed a half-mile on grass in Florida. Plans call for him to have a race next month at Gulfstream Park near Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, after which he will be flown to Dubai for the $10-million World Cup in Dubai, for which he has been favored with English bookies for the past couple of weeks.
He is an amazingly versatile horse that can run over any surface. He is unique among American horses in this regard. I think he has a chance to become the greatest money winning North American Thoroughbred of all-time, replacing Curlin, whose career earnings were $10,051,000. He will be campaigned internationally, with his only other likely U.S. start to come in the Breeders’ Cup. I wouldn’t put anything beyond the scope of this horse.
He is quite a character, sort of a testing teenager type. He is always looking for pranks to pull off. When he had his workouts for the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, trainer Graham Motion sometimes had to position as many as 9 or 10 other horses for him to pass and follow, because once he gets his nose in front, he goes to playing, bucking, ducking, diving and the like.
He stands just under 16 hands 3 inches and he weights a massive 1,200 pounds. He has a gorgeous, breedy head, his front limbs are correct and he fills the eye.
I couldn’t be prouder of a horse that I bred and named. Truly a gift from the Gods.”
For the record :
The Eclipse Award winners are:
Tapit - Stormy Sunday by Sir Cat
MY MISS AURELIA
Smart Strike - My Miss Storm Cat by Sea Of Secrets
Leroidesanimaux - Dalicia by Acatenango
Empire Maker - Delta Princess by A.P. Indy
Unusual Heat - Winning In Style by Silveyville
HAVRE DE GRACE
Saint Liam - Easter Bunnette by Carson City
Northern Afleet - Wilshe Amaze by In Excess
Concordes Tune - Candlelight Dinner by Slew Gin Fizz
Male Turf Horse
CAPE BLANCO (IRE)
(Galileo - Laurel Delight by Presidium
Female Turf Horse
Monsun - Soignee by Dashing Blade
BLACK JACK BLUES (IRE)
Definite Article - Melody Maid by Strong Gale
RAMSEY, KENNETH L. and SARAH K.
WILLIAM I. MOTT
Horse Of The Year
HAVRE DE GRACE
Saint Liam - Easter Bunnette by Carson City