Animal Kingdom’s first look at Ascot

Animal Kingdom (pictured) had his first look at Ascot on Wednesday morning when he galloped on the famous mile course which will be the stage for the Queen Anne S. G1 on 18 June.

US jockey John Velazquez, who rode the son of Leroidesanimaux in his 2011 Kentucky Derby victory, flew in to join Animal Kingdom in the dress rehearsal of the full routine they will experience in just under three weeks’ time.

With owners Barry Irwin of Team Valor and John Messara of Arrowfield Stud in attendance, Animal Kingdom cantered down to beyond the five-furlong marker before an easy gallop back for a furlong or so. He then moved into his serious work with his lead horse from David Lanigan’s yard, where he has been based since arriving in England after winning the Dubai World Cup on 30 March.

Animal Kingdom stretched out in the last couple of furlongs and completed the gallop strongly, then fly-jumped just after the post.

“It was an awkward moment but thankfully nothing happened,” said Velazquez. “He just saw the line across the wire and tried to jump it.”

Velazquez, who rode two winners for US trainer Wesley Ward at Royal Ascot in 2009, was otherwise delighted with Animal Kingdom’s effort.

“It was nice to have a work on the track and see where he’s going to run. I think he did it very good today.

Trainer Graham Motion rode a hack down to the start of the gallop before following Animal Kingdom back in front of the empty stands.

“I’m satisfied with how it went,” said Motion. “Johnny seems really pleased with him.

“For us it was very soft out there and Johnny felt he handled it great, though I didn’t think it would be a problem because this horse handles everything that’s thrown at him and he’s bred to handle soft grass. Normally at home we’d work five furlongs but with the soft ground I didn’t want to step it up until four furlongs.”

Motion, who returned to the States on Wednesday evening, will be back in Lambourn on Saturday week to oversee Animal Kingdom’s final Ascot preparations.

“I almost hate to say it because we’ve still got a few weeks to go, but it has gone really well so far,” he added. “This was an important workout – he’ll probably have two more works now, an easier work next week and another one the week after that.”

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