They can run the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot just about any time they want. The expected reactions to Animal Kingdom’s performance are most likely already cemented. These reactions are predictable, and they’ve essentially been festering via social media for weeks, crystallizing as the field solidified for the race, but they really miss the point of this historic event.
If any of the four results below occur, you WILL hear/read/experience these thoughts. How could one be surprised if the stories aren’t already drafted?
…Animal Kingdom wins the Queen Anne by two lengths or more:
“He should’ve crushed this field, he was the highest-rated horse in the race, by far, and beat a wildly inferior field, not to mention, he came in off a dominating score in the world’s richest race. No big deal.”
…Animal Kingdom wins the Queen Anne by one length:
“He just barely got it done. American turf horses are really just average, and this was one of the least credentialed fields in the history of the Queen Anne. He’s a good horse to have won it, but he’s definitely not one of the greatest. It’s great for America and all, but no big deal.
…Animal Kingdom loses the Queen Anne by one length:
“Americans on turf, especially when overseas, equate to European Group 2/Group 3 runners. It’s been said for years, and this just went to prove it. He’s a good horse, certainly durable, but this field wasn’t great and he still couldn’t win.”
…Animal Kingdom loses the Queen Anne by two lengths or more:
“The Dubai World Cup isn’t a great race, when will people finally recognize it? Winning that race means nothing other than a big bump in your bank account. He’s not that great, a sensitive horse, an American horse, and he couldn’t even beat Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup – and while we’re at it, Wise Dan isn’t all that special either. European turf horses are just the best in the world, and this went a long way towards proving it.”
What’s the truth?
The fact that an intact Kentucky Derby winner is still racing, and successfully, is a massive boost to American racing, whether he’s been in America or not. The son of brilliant turf miler Leroidesanimaux is a winner on dirt, turf, and all-weather, and a G1 winner on two of those surfaces, while G1 placed on grass. While having started only eleven times in his career, it’s the last four starts on his ledger, from 2012 and 2013, that stand out – mostly because Kentucky Derby winners are so rarely seen around, let alone in the winner’s circle, in the years after their Derby tally.
Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby victor, was the last Derby winner to take a race in his 4-year-old season, a score in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. The last Derby winner to have a win after his 4-year-old year was 2003 champ Funny Cide (a winner at six and seven), but he was a gelding. The last non-gelding to have won the Kentucky Derby and a start beyond his 4-year-old season was Silver Charm, taking the 1999 San Pasqual Handicap, two years after his 1997 Derby score. Before that, it was 1991 winner Strike The Gold, who took down a non-descript allowance race in April 1993.
That Animal Kingdom is even in training, taking a spot down the straight in the lidlifter at the Royal meeting is an epic achievement in 2013.
What it says about American racing, the fragility of the modern thoroughbred, your opinion on permissive medication, the breeding industry, or any other cause one wishes to assign as a result of this oddity is just a feeble attempt to fit a story around an agenda.
It has been an absolute pleasure to see the Kentucky Derby winner, trained masterfully by Graham Motion, and preserved with precision by his superb team, and a thrill to know that Team Valor boss Barry Irwin, a bold, brash, and big thinker, was willing to campaign his Derby winner, an entire, with such gusto.
Win or lose, America thanks them for getting the Derby winner to this point. Taking the Dubai World Cup was both a monumental achievement and a monumental rarity. A Royal Ascot tally in the Queen Anne only adds to the legend of Animal Kingdom, despite the fact that the vast majority of media (mostly those from the UK), will dismiss the results as the predictive reactions above outline.
Regardless of what some might say or write, and the advance copy is surely on the tip of many scribes’ fingers, a loss in the Queen Anne is meaningless. He’s a winner, and so is American racing, whatever the result.