Champion American jockey Johnny Velazquez and leading US trainer Graham Motion had starring roles in Animal Kingdom’s sensational 2011 Kentucky Derby victory. Now they’re coming to Australia to see his first yearlings at next month’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale, and Velazquez will be available for rides on Jeep Magic Millions Gold Coast Raceday, Saturday 9 January.
Puerto Rico-born Velazquez and English native Motion have both forged remarkable careers in American racing.
Velazquez, pictured left, affectionately known as “Johnny V”, is the Leading All-Time US Money-winning rider, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, and a member of the US Racing Hall of Fame. In 2015 alone he has ridden almost 200 winners for earnings of $US20 million including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last Saturday aboard Tonalist.
Motion, pictured right, was nurtured in English racing as the son of bloodstock agent Michael and assistant trainer Jo, but the family moved in 1980 to the United States where Motion is based at Herringswell Stables in Maryland.
Individually, Velazquez and Motion have been associated with many outstanding performers, including US Horse of the Year Wise Dan, Champions Speightstown, Lemon Drop Kid & Main Sequence, Breeders’ Cup winners Better Talk Now, Da Hoss & Shared Account and recent Grade 1 winner Photo Call.
Paradoxically, it took a horse with a pedigree more European than American to elevate them both to the special level of fame reserved for history-making Kentucky Derby winners.
Animal Kingdom was the first horse in 137 years to win the Derby at his first start on dirt – in fact, Motion confirmed a start only after the charismatic colt worked brilliantly at Churchill Downs a week before the race. Velazquez, left without a ride when Uncle Mo went amiss, piloted Animal Kingdom to a spectacular 2.75-length victory, posting the fastest last half-mile since Secretariat 38 years earlier.
Injury derailed Animal Kingdom’s 4YO career until a daring first-up tilt at the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile G1 on turf at Santa Anita where he flew home from an impossible position to run second to Wise Dan in track record time of 1:31.78. That performance clinched both Arrowfield Stud’s purchase of a majority interest in Animal Kingdom and a challenge for the $US10 million Dubai World Cup G1, on the artificial tapeta surface. At Meydan, Animal Kingdom simply dominated his eleven top-class rivals – collectively the winners of 24 Group 1 races in eight countries.
After that victory, Animal Kingdom was rated the best entire on the World Thoroughbred Rankings, with a figure of 126.
Retired to stud in 2013, Animal Kingdom is represented in the 2016 Magic Millions Gold Coast catalogue by eight yearlings, seven of them in the Arrowfield draft. They include a daughter of Gr2 winner Cat By The Tale, a grandson of champion filly Alinghi, and a half-sister to Wild Rain, one of five stakeswinners from the Stud’s 2013 Magic Millions consignment.
As well as attending the Sale and the Magic Millions raceday on Saturday 9 January, Motion and Velazquez will visit Arrowfield and will be available for media interviews from Wednesday 6 January 2016.