The 137th Kentucky Derby has come and gone, but in dramatic fashion the race provided the world of sports with plenty of excitement and a day of firsts. A record crowd of over 164,000 individuals watched as Animal Kingdom proved he was the best horse of the day winning the historic race over 2nd place finisher Nehro and a late charging Mucho Macho Man. Animal Kingdom now stands next to 1992 winner Lil E. Tee as the only winners of Turfway Park’s Spiral Stakes and the derby. Animal Kingdom was also the first to win off a six-week layoff since Needles in 1956. Another stunning statistic is that Animal Kingdom never started on dirt before Saturday, racing on mainly synthetic surfaces. With four previous lifetime starts, history says he should not have won the race, but he silenced the critics by drawing off in the final strides to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
For Animal Kingdom’s connections, it was also a day of firsts. Team Valor’s big dog, Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner, looked to be a strong contender in the derby after his superb win in the Wood. For a time, it was uncertain if Animal Kingdom would compete. However, Toby’s Corner came up lame early last week and the connections decided not to run him. It was a go for Animal Kingdom. Jockey John Velazquez lost his mount on Friday when one-time derby favorite Uncle Mo was scratched due to a lingering gastrointestinal infection. He was named to ride Animal Kingdom after regular rider Robby Albarado was taken off due to injuries sustained in a fall earlier in the week. It seems the stars aligned and the derby gods were looking down on the field of 19 as they broke from the gate. The thrilling victory gave Team Valor, trainer H. Graham Motion, and Velazquez their first derby win.
Animal Kingdom had a perfect trip with Johnny V. in the irons. He sat patiently stalking early leaders, Shackleford, Comma to the Top, Pants On Fire, Decisive Moment and Soldat. The pace was relatively slow, but as they made their way around the far turn, it looked like Shackleford might pull away. Instead Nehro closed in to challenge. When they hit the 1/8 pole Animal Kingdom broke free and took the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Animal Kingdom $43.80 $19.60 $13.00
Nehro $8.80 $6.40
Mucho Macho Man $7.00
Congratulations to the racing connections of Animal Kingdom. It was great to see John Velazquez finally get his first derby victory. After each race we have expressed our concern with the safety and health of each horse competing. The only unfortunate news to report is that Archarcharch sustained a leg injury that has forced the talented colt to retire. We hope he as a productive life after racing. It is now on to the Preakness to see if Animal Kingdom can continue his magical run into racing history.
Written by Big Brink