Animal Kingdom wins Kentucky Derby

Animal Kingdom, a 20-1 outsider, gave his jockey John Velazquez and British-born trainer Graham Motion their first victories in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, a result that surprised Motion almost as much as it did many of the spectators in the record crowd of 164,858 at America's most famous racecourse. 
Motion felt before the race that his best chance of winning had disappeared when Toby's Corner, the winner of the Wood Memorial, was scratched on Tuesday due to a leg injury. However, Animal Kingdom, who had never previously raced on a dirt surface and prepared for the Derby on Polytrack at Turfway Park, produced a powerful run in the home stretch that carried him two-and-three-quarter lengths clear of Nehro at the line, with Mucho Macho Man back in third.

Velazquez's path to his first Derby victory at the 13th attempt was more circuitous still. His intended mount, the second-favourite Uncle Mo, was withdrawn barely 24 hours before the race due to a persistent stomach problem, while Animal Kingdom was originally due to be ridden by Robby Alborado. However, Alborado suffered a broken nose in a fall at Churchill Downs on Wednesday and was replaced by Velazquez as soon as it became clear that Uncle Mo would not make the line-up.

Dialed In, the favourite, finished eighth, while Master Of Hounds, trained by Aidan O'Brien, ran well to finish fifth. "It was a great race for his first time on dirt – we're delighted," said O'Brien.

Rosie Napravnik, hoping to become the first female jockey to win the Derby, finished ninth on Pants On Fire.

As well as being untried on dirt, Animal Kingdom's preparation defied some long-standing trends. His previous race was on 26 March, the longest rest following a Derby prep since 1956, while he was the first horse since 1918 to win with only four previous races in the form book.

"Someone asked 'Are you surprised to win with a second-tier horse?'," Motion, who left Britain for America when he was 16, said. "I'm not sure we would categorise him as a second-tier horse. He's been an extraordinary horse to train. I was so impressed with how he handled everything."

Velazquez said his first Derby victory had been a trouble-free ride. "I didn't have to do very much," he said. "He was going well the whole way around, so he gave me a lot of confidence to be where I was and when I asked him to do something he was there for me. A good horse gets you out of trouble."

Alborado, who won a race on the undercard on Saturday, felt that he should have been given his chance in the Derby. "I'm not happy," he said. "Barry Irwin [who heads the syndicate that owns Animal Kingdom] decided he didn't think I was fit to ride. He didn't know my status or situation. This just wasn't my time today."

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Animal Kingdom wins Kentucky Derby Animal Kingdom wins Kentucky Derby Reviewed by afree on 1:23 AM Rating: 5

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