Animal Kingdom, ridden by jockey John Velazquez and trained by Graham Motion, captured the 137th Kentucky Derby in front of a record crowd of 164,858 by chasing down front runner Shackelford in the final furlongs on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The son of a champion turf miler Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) out of an Acategnango (GER) mare Dalicia (GER) paid backers a solid $43.80 to win for every two dollars wagered. It was undoubtedly a surprising result, especially when considering the three-year-old had not run on dirt in his previous four races.
“I never anticipated winning the Derby, so it’s a lot to take in,” Motion said Sunday morning at Churchill Downs. “It’s an odd feeling to have won the race and then you’ve got to start thinking about winning the Preakness. It’s a little daunting.”
The result was even more surprising when looking at the pace of Saturday’s race, as every step of the first six furlongs was the slowest anyone’s seen in 24 years. Definitely not the scenario that experts expected in seeing Animal Kingdom reach the wire first, but he did earn an early Beyer Speed Figure of 103 by posting a final quarter mile internal split of 24.55 that ranks fourth-fastest since 1988.
The fastest come-home time in the race belonged to race favorite Dialed In (23.79), who ultimately finished eighth in the race despite posting the quickest final half-mile in the field. Nick Zito’s three-year-old is expected to make his way to Pimlico, joining the winner and Mucho Macho Man (finished third).
Dialed In’s connections are likely to keep the horse at Churchill Downs for the next 1½ weeks before flying to Maryland a few days before the Preakness. It's also important to note the horse has plenty of incentive racing in the second leg of the Triple Crown due to a $5.5 million dollar bonus from MI Developments, the parent company of both Gulfstream and Pimlico.
In winning both the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, Dialed In is eligible for the major bonus if he were to win on May 21.
“This horse might like being wheeled right back,” said Zito. “And, you’re right, we’ve thought about the big bonus.”
The 137th edition of the “Run for the Roses” certainly lost a lot of star power before the race, as two-year-old champion and second choice on the morning line, Uncle Mo, scratched Friday due to lingering health issues. Trainer Todd Pletcher has stated that his start will not run in either of the final two Triple Crown races.
It’s possible that Animal Kingdom could go off as the second choice in the Preakness two weeks from now, as plenty of horse players may throw out Dialed In’s performance in the Derby due to incredibly slow fractions. That alone could provide incredible value on a horse that has now raced over five different tracks and three surfaces, while bringing in a mix of speed and stamina that could result in an exciting Triple Crown run.