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Velazquez to Ride Animal Kingdom at Royal Ascot

April 26, 2013

Tdn.com

Jockey John Velazquez, who rode Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux {Brz}) to victory in the 2011 GI Kentucky Derby, will be aboard the colt when he makes his career finale at Royal Ascot in June, Team Valor International has announced.

Velazquez has a history of success at Royal Ascot, having ridden at the meeting in 2000, 2009, and 2011, and recording victories aboard the Wesley Ward-trained duo of Jealous Again and Strike the Tiger in 2009. Velazquez has not been aboard Animal Kingdom since an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park in February 2012, but will fly to England to breeze the colt prior to his intended start, which could come in the G1 Queen Anne S. going a mile June 18, or the G1 Prince of Wales’s S. over 1 1/4 miles the following day. Animal Kingdom was last seen winning the G1 Dubai World Cup Mar. 30 under jockey Joel Rosario.

"Johnny knows the horse better than any other rider and he has had success at Royal Ascot," trainer Graham Motion said. "He won on a straightaway at Royal Ascot and if we decide to go in the (G1) Queen Anne S. on opening day up the straight, that experience figures to come in handy."

Barry Irwin, president and CEO of Team Valor International, added: "No American jockey is riding better than Joel [Rosario] right now. We thought he gave a peerless performance in the [Dubai] World Cup. But we don’t think it would be fair for the jockey to ride him on a straightaway when neither jockey nor horse had done it before. Dropping from a mile and a quarter around turns on a synthetic track to running uphill on a straight course on grass is quite a transition for any horse, especially at this level. So the decision to go with a jockey that knows the horse and the course made the job easier. It was a difficult decision."