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Terribly Lengthy Kentucky Derby Recap

Animal Kingdom & Johnny VOur Kentucky Derby party was held on a horse farm, as is right and proper; the group’s main rooting interests were Animal Kingdom and Pants on Fire. Prior to the main races, we repaired to the mare-and-foal barn to have a look at this year’s crop – all fillies. We spent extra time scratching the ears of the Leroidesanimaux filly, and there was much discussion over what a win by Animal Kingdom (trained just a few miles away from the farm at Fair Hill) would mean for her. A few stalls down, one of the other mares was waiting to be confirmed in foal to Jump Start, so a good effort from Pants on Fire was also hoped for – not just for the potential value of the resulting foal, but also because jockey Rosie Napravnik has ridden other horses for the stable, and everyone wished her continued success.

My bets were already placed – most of them included Archarcharch, Pants on Fire and Nehro – and I included a number with Animal Kingdom and Master of Hounds. While I could never see Twinspired or Derby Kitten as anything other than turf or synthetic horses, I felt the other two had the potential to go beyond their preferred surface and ‘invested’ accordingly.

The first real excitement of the afternoon came when Get Stormy won the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic…the dam of the aforementioned (and really quite adorable) Leroidesanimaux filly, Stormy Rosa, is also by Stormy Atlantic, so there was much rejoicing about the family doing well on such a big day. We were, of course, concerned to see the well-traveled Battle of Hastings being vanned off; he’s always seemed very game, and I hope he finds a pleasant retirement, now that he’s successfully come through surgery for his injury – although there is some small hope he could return to the track.

With the Kentucky Derby itself fast approaching, we finally got around to creating a pool; this year, horses were assigned by chance. While I was nonplussed to have pulled Brilliant Speed out of the hat, I felt more confident of my husband’s and child’s chances – they ended up with Animal Kingdom and Nehro. Finally, the horses loaded into the gate (a process that seemed much smoother and faster than it has for the past few years), and they were off. While no one was terribly impressed by the initial pace (we were early predicting a finishing time in the 2:06 neighborhood), as they hit the top of the stretch, things became very exciting indeed – and when Animal Kingdom made his move, the room erupted. As soon as he crossed the wire (in a much better time than anyone had imagined), it was clear we all had a mission: we had to go back to the barn to tell the Leroidesanimaux filly that her ‘brother’ had just won the Kentucky Derby.

Fortunately, the mares and foals seemed unfazed by the appearance of many very excited people in their midst, and (most of them) didn’t even mind the small children running and shouting around them. Of course, the ‘star’ filly was the main attraction, and she received many congratulatory hugs, scratches and pats on the nose; luckily, she has a lovely personality and didn’t mind the sudden onslaught of attention from people large and small. One imagines that once she (fingers crossed) begins to achieve things in her own right, she’ll be just as easy-going.Cutest Leroidesanimaux filly ever?

Naturally, there was upset over Archarcharch – it was such a shame to see such a game, talented horse injured – but it’s good to know that he’ll be able to have a comfortable retirement. Comma to the Top’s injury wasn’t as apparent (at least, to me), but I confess I was not expecting a huge race from him; at least he’ll be back racing (presumably at a shorter distance). While not as severe an issue, Pants on Fire’s bleeding issue was also a disappointment, but at least there was an explanation for his performance – he’s clearly capable of better, and hopefully he’ll soon be back in form.

I was not at all surprised to see Nehro in second – I had him there in all my exactas, and I think he’s got quite a future ahead of him. Of course, he’ll need to take care not to become this crop’s Awesome Gem (a horse I adore) with a collection of just-missing-the-win second (or fourth) place finishes, but it certainly would not hurt his bank balance. Mucho Macho Man seems to be maturing nicely, and I was impressed that Shackleford hung on as well as he did. Master of Hounds was also well worth noting – he seemed quite comfortable on dirt, and I would anticipate he would only improve with a little more distance. It’s a shame he won’t be sticking around for the Derby, but I would certainly be intrigued if he comes back in the fall for the Breeders’ Cup.

While much has been made (and rightly so) of how trainer Graham Motion’s victory demonstrates that it’s entirely possible to win the Kentucky Derby without the assistance of Big Pharma (huzzah!), Animal Kingdom’s breeding should not be overlooked. I’ve been high on his pedigree for some time; the combination of quality South American and European stamina and versatility influences is something that is simply absent from so many modern American runners. Also worth considering is what might be going on in Brazil that can produce a horse capable of succeeding on any surface – Animal Kingdom’s sire, Leroidesanimaux may have excelled on grass (he only tried an alternative once, in his racing debut), but his fellow Brazilian-bred Einstein was quite happy to win on any surface. While it’s not exactly scientific to presume from those two examples that Something Is Happening In Brazil, it’s nice to see those influences coming together to lead to wins at the highest level – though it’s a bit of a shame that Animal Kingdom’s German dam has been sent to Japan.

It all makes me wonder whether I should be heading to the Preakness in less than two short weeks…

1 comment to Terribly Lengthy Kentucky Derby Recap

  • I was hoping to see Master of Hounds in the Belmonnt. Ah, well. I bet much lighter into the race than I have in years and was rewarded for doing so. I always think of Hunter and Bukowski, the men who interested me in the game, before the race. Hunter would have like the huge crowd. Bukowski would have wished he were in his room with his cats drinking and writing.

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