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Australian stud acquires majority interest in Animal Kingdom breeding rights

Animal Kingdom gained fame by winning the Kentucky Derby in 2011 (Alex Evers/EquiSport Photos)

John Messara's Arrowfield Stud has acquired a majority interest in the breeding rights to Kentucky Derby hero and champion Animal Kingdom, who will begin his stud career in Australia next September and likely shuttle to the Northern Hemisphere beginning in 2014.

The deal is subject to Animal Kingdom passing importation protocols, which involve blood work that should be finalized in the next few days. Team Valor International, which bred and campaigned the four-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux, will maintain a significant interest in his stud career.

Most recently runner-up to Horse of the Year candidate Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile in just his third start on turf, Animal Kingdom is slated for the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on February 9 as a prep for the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31 over the synthetic Tapeta at Meydan.

After the World Cup, the chestnut will be flown from Dubai to England and considered for an additional start, possibly at Royal Ascot in June.

"Animal Kingdom excites us as a rare kind of athlete with a truly international pedigree who is able to express his class on a range of surfaces," Messara said. "He is already rated among the world's elite turf milers and has the potential to become a global superstar in 2013."

Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin fielded a regular stream of offers for Animal Kingdom's stud career ever since the 2011 Kentucky Derby, in the colt prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths as the first horse to conquer the Run for the Roses in his first start on dirt.

Animal Kingdom nearly went down right after the start of the Belmont (Melissa Wirth/Horsephotos.com)

Before the Derby, Animal Kingdom had only ever competed on turf or synthetic tracks, breaking his maiden over Keeneland's Polytrack in 2010 and taking the Grade 3 Spiral on Turfway Park's version of that all-weather surface in his race prior to the first Saturday in May. He followed the Derby with a half-length second in the Preakness Stakes after battling in the stretch with Shackleford at Pimlico two weeks later.

The gleaming chestnut would only race one more time as a sophomore, that coming when running sixth in the Belmont Stakes. Animal Kingdom was slammed hard and clipped heels at the start, nearly losing jockey John Velazquez, but managed to recover and finish the race. He exited the Belmont with a left hind leg injury -- a small fissure on the tip of the cannon bone where it joins the lower part of the hock -- that was scheduled to sideline him for two weeks.

A few weeks later, new X-rays revealed a slab fracture above the original fissure and the colt underwent surgery to insert a screw to compress the fracture. He spent the next few months undergoing rehabilitation at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland before resuming training in September 2011. Animal Kingdom returned to the worktab last December as trainer Graham Motion readied him for his four-year-old bow, a turf optional claimer at Gulfstream Park which he won by two lengths on February 18.

The Dubai World Cup in late March was Animal Kingdom's early season goal, but following his return win he developed lameness in his left hind leg which was later diagnosed as a stress fracture. While unrelated to the previous fracture, the new injury knocked him out of the World Cup and put him on the shelf until he resumed galloping at Fair Hill in late June.

The Breeders' Cup Mile became the new target, and Animal Kingdom rewarded his connections' faith with a nice second to Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile nine months after his last race.

Animal Kingdom is destined for stud duty in Australia (Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

He's recorded just one official work since the Breeders' Cup, going a half-mile in :52 3/5 over the firm turf with the dogs up at Palm Meadows in Florida on Tuesday, and the Dubai World Cup once more looms large on his schedule.

Animal Kingdom, who stands to be the only Derby-winning stallion prospect to race as a five-year-old since 1997 victor Silver Charm, has thus far compiled a 4-4-0 mark from nine races and banked $2,327,500.

"Originally it was our intention to race Animal Kingdom for the entire 2013 season," Irwin explained. "However, the prospect of getting the support of John Messara's Arrowfield Stud in the Southern Hemisphere was so meaningful, that I advised my partners to sublimate their fun and take the deal.

"It is critically important to get a history-making stallion master behind a new prospect and in John Messara we have that. He has developed two of the world's most successful sires in Danehill and his son, Redoute's Choice. No way I was going to pass up this opportunity."

Robin Bruss of Northfields Bloodstock brokered the deal.

Team Valor will form broodmare partnerships to breed to Animal Kingdom, with the plan of selling and racing his offspring around the globe.

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