Animal Kingdom's Derby still exceptional

None of the four Kentucky Derby winners since Animal Kingdom’s imperious 2011 victory have matched either the actual distance he ran, or his exceptional time for the final quarter-mile.

This is revealed by the Trakus data compiled at Churchill Downs for each of the last five Derbys, won by Animal Kingdom, I’ll Have Another, Orb, California Chrome and American Pharaoh.

Animal Kingdom covered 6,760 feet in the Derby, after settling off the rail during the race and swinging wide to claim the lead in the straight. That’s 160 feet or about 50 metres further than the official distance of 10 furlongs (2000m).

Nonetheless, Animal Kingdom ran a fast overall time of 2.02.04 with his last quarter-mile (about 400 metres) in 23.84 seconds  – 2.68 seconds faster than the Zayat family’s outstanding colt. The next-fastest last quarter-mile in the past five years was the 25.80 seconds posted by I’ll Have Another in 2012, and he covered 80 feet less during the race than Animal Kingdom had done a year earlier.

The Churchill Downs track was rated fast in 2011, 2012, 2014 & 2015, and only Orb in 2013 had to deal with a surface rated “sloppy”.

Eighteen months after the Derby Animal Kingdom produced another extraordinary finish when he returned from a long break after injury to run second in the Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup Mile G1 on turf, won by Wise Dan in the near world record time of 1:31.78.

In March 2013 his championship acceleration took Animal Kingdom to a famous victory in the Dubai World Cup G1, held on Meydan’s tapeta surface. This time, however, he produced sensational mid-race sectionals, clocking 23.20 for the 1600-1200m (the single fastest split in the whole race) and 23.60  from 1200-800m.

Furthermore, Animal Kingdom travelled 17 metres further than runner-up Red Cadeaux,. Adjusting the final winning margin of two lengths for this extra distance suggests that Animal Kingdom was more than 8 lengths better at Meydan than Red Cadeaux.

The subsequent Group 1 form of the horses behind Animal Kingdom in Dubai has firmly franked his performance.

Red Cadeaux has since run magnificent seconds to Protectionist in the 2013 VRC Melbourne Cup G1 and behind Criterion in the 2015 ATC Queen Elizabeth S. G1. Planteur (3rd) was second in the Longchamp Prix d’Ispahan at his next start, while Side Glance (4th) was subsequently third in the 2013 Arlington Million and won the VRC L.K.S. MacKinnon Stakes.

African Story (5th) returned to Meydan to win the 2014 Dubai World Cup; Meandre (6th) won the 2013 Cologne Preis von Europa; Hunter’s Light (7th) won the 2015 Meydan Jebel Hatta S.; and by the end of 2013 champion US mare Royal Delta (10th) had boosted her stellar record with her fifth & sixth Grade 1 successes and her third Eclipse Award.

As Trakus analyst Pat Cummings wrote afterwards, “Let there be no doubt that Animal Kingdom’s race in the Dubai World Cup was phenomenal.”