Animal Kingdom’s great run ends at Royal Ascot

Perfect finales are hard to achieve in life, never mind racing, and yesterday Animal Kingdom joined a long list of outstanding horses whose records miss that last triumphant flourish.

As trainer Graham Motion tweeted later, “There was no fairytale ending but no one said racing was meant to be easy. We’ve had a great run.”

Motion and Animal Kingdom’s owners were perplexed by the Dubai World Cup winner’s well below par performance in yesterday’s Queen Anne Stakes G1 at Royal Ascot.

John Messara, Chairman of Arrowfield Stud, said, “The next 24 hours may tell the story.”

“It was clear to anyone who watched the race that Animal Kingdom’s run was too bad to be true.”

“Either way it was his last run before retirement to stud.”

Before Ascot Animal Kingdom had won five and placed in five of his 11 starts from two to five, and finished first or second in five of the Group 1 races he contested: Kentucky Derby & Dubai World Cup (1st), Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Mile, Gulfstream Turf Handicap (2nd). His only previous unplaced run was in the 2011 Belmont S. G1 where he sustained an injury that kept him away from racing for several months.

The imposing chestnut entire started favourite in the Queen Anne, despite the sizeable history against him: he had raced only on flat turning tracks, a US-trained horse has never won a Group 1 race at Royal Ascot and the last Kentucky Derby winner to turn up there was Omaha in 1936.

Yet the possibility of adding a major English prize to Animal Kingdom’s triumphs in the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup was an irresistible challenge for his adventurous owners, Arrowfield Stud, Darley & Team Valor International. To their credit they committed to it whole-heartedly, while recognising the immensity of the task in front of Animal Kingdom.

John Messara said, “Of course, it’s disappointing because it is so difficult to find a horse good enough to be a realistic chance of winning a Royal Ascot Group 1 and Animal Kingdom was undoubtedly good enough. So it’s a personal goal that has to stay on the bucket list for a bit longer!

“I’m very excited and proud to have Animal Kingdom join the Arrowfield roster and we all look forward to welcoming him to Australia in the Spring.”

Animal Kingdom will begin his stud career Arrowfield at a 2013 fee of $38,500 inc. GST.

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