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Animal Kingdom is a beast in Dubai World Cup

Animal Kingdom joins Silver Charm as Kentucky Derby winners to prevail in the world's richest race (Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com)
Arrowfield Stud and Team Valor International's Animal Kingdom had his dream of Group 1 Dubai World Cup glory deferred a year because of injury, but the American champion proved well worth the wait with a dynamic victory in Saturday's $10 million prize. Trained by Graham Motion and ridden beautifully by Joel Rosario, the 5-2 favorite overcame post 12 to become the first U.S.-based horse to win the world's richest race since its move to Meydan in 2010.

"That was shocking," Team Valor Chief Executive Officer Barry Irwin enthused. "I thought he could win, but I didn't think he could win like that. He proved that not only is he a top horse, but that he is one of the top horses in the world."

His fellow American raiders, Royal Delta and Dullahan, didn't fare as well. Royal Delta tired to 10th after setting the pace, and Dullahan was 11th in the 12-horse field reduced by the scratch of 2012 hero Monterosso.

Rosario's ride in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf last out was widely panned, after Animal Kingdom made a premature move and was run down by Point of Entry. But he executed to perfection when it counted most here, navigating an ideal trip from a potentially costly post.

Royal Delta broke alertly from post 8 and glided effortlessly to the lead. Hunter's Light and Side Glance were in her slipstream as Animal Kingdom raced four wide of them. Straightening into the backstretch, Animal Kingdom drew up into a stalking second, remaining a picture of composure, and quietly-contained power, as they made their way down that side of the track.

When Royal Delta began to come under pressure on the far turn, Animal Kingdom was still racing well within himself. Rosario turned him loose swinging for home, and the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner responded with alacrity. Animal Kingdom drew off and established an insurmountable advantage. Although Red Cadeaux made eye-catching late progress to reduce the deficit, the race was essentially over.

Animal Kingdom was still two lengths clear at the wire while completing about 1 1/4 miles on Tapeta in 2:03 1/5. The son of Leroidesanimaux joins Hall of Famer Silver Charm (1997-98) as the only Kentucky Derby winners to claim the Dubai World Cup.

"He's an extraordinary animal," Motion marveled. "The way he won tonight reminded me of the way he won the Kentucky Derby."

"It's unbelievable," a beaming Rosario said.

"I've never been here before -- this is my first time," the winning rider noted. "I watched a lot of races. I had an idea where I needed to go from. I listened to my trainer and to my horse. He's a very good horse. He did it. He's very quick. It seemed like a long way home in the stretch."

Although Americans could take justifiable pride in one of their own, Australia had the honor of hearing her national anthem played during the trophy presentation. The change of official nationality reflects his future home at Arrowfield, where the five-year-old will enter stud later this year.

Jockey Gerald Mosse paid tribute to runner-up Red Cadeaux.

Animal Kingdom was long gone by the time Red Cadeaux (right) offered his rally (Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club)
"This horse never ceases to amaze me," Mosse said. "To run second in the Dubai World Cup and get within two lengths of Animal Kingdom, I've got to be happy with that."

There was a 4 3/4-length gap back to Planteur, who earned the bronze medal in the World Cup for the second straight year. He bested Side Glance by a neck, with African Story performing best of the Godolphin runners another nose back in fifth.

"He was third last year, third this year," rider Ryan Moore said of Planteur. "I was happy enough with his run."

Side Glance's connections were elated with his fourth-place effort.

"We're delighted," trainer Andrew Balding said. "We're really pleased that he seemed to handle the surface well and he has doubled his prize money earnings in one night. He'll go home and be prepared for the (Group 1) Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot but longer term his target is the (Group 1) Cox Plate."

"I was really happy with his run," said Jamie Spencer, who was aboard Side Glance. "Listen, there are no easy Dubai World Cups and that was a career best effort."

Meandre, morning-line favorite Hunter's Light, Treasure Beach, Kassiano, Royal Delta, Dullahan and the distanced Capponi comprised the remainder.

"He (Hunter's Light) had every chance," jockey Silvestre de Sousa said. "He just wasn't good enough at this level even though he was a Group 1 winner here last time. This was a better race and he was a bit one-paced."

Royal Delta and Dullahan didn't produce their characteristic efforts.

"My trip was good -- she just didn't seem to care for it," jockey Mike Smith said of Royal Delta's feeling on the Tapeta. "Every time she had to pick it up, she struggled. After four or five passed her, we were pretty much done -- then we just got home safe."

"(Dullahan) was traveling sweet -- jumped out good," Gary Stevens recapped. "I was a bit closer than I thought I was going to be. He was doing it under his own power. I got him out down the backside. I loved where he was at. Three furlongs out, for whatever reason, he just shut it down. He pulled up great underneath me but he was, I don't want to say distressed, but worn out. He was really struggling the last two furlongs."

Animal Kingdom's $6 million payday increased his earnings to $8,387,500, and his resume reads 11-5-5-0. Successful in the Grade 3 Spiral over Turfway Park's Polytrack in his stakes debut, the chestnut went on to take the 137th Run for the Roses in his first dirt attempt. Animal Kingdom fell a half-length shy of catching Shackleford in the 2011 Preakness, but was wiped out early in the Belmont Stakes when hampered and clipping heels. He was capable of finishing the race in sixth, the only time he has been out of the top two in his career. Animal Kingdom was subsequently diagnosed with a slab fracture in his left hind leg that required season-ending surgery. He had done enough to win the Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old colt in a squeaker over Caleb's Posse.

Targeting the 2012 Dubai World Cup, Animal Kingdom made a winning return in a turf allowance at Gulfstream, and he was full steam ahead for Meydan. Unfortunately, he developed the beginning of a stress fracture in his left hind leg, an injury described as unrelated to his Belmont fracture.

Off for nearly eight months, Animal Kingdom came back in an audacious spot, the November 3 Breeders' Cup Mile. Short of room at a crucial stage in the stretch, he extricated himself too late and had to settle for second to Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Animal Kingdom made the second start of his comeback in the aforementioned Gulfstream Park Turf on February 9. With Rosario aboard for the first time, he exploded earlier than usual nearing the far turn, and ended up being outkicked late by Point of Entry.

Animal Kingdom could theoretically race once more at Royal Ascot in June before retiring in time for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season.

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