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Farewell Animal Kingdom

June 19, 2013

By Dan Illman

ANIMAL KINGDOM declared war on Royal Ascot, but he beat a hasty retreat in Tuesday's Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes.

To be honest, Animal Kingdom gave a dismal performance in England. Studdish in the paddock and rank when unable to find cover in the early stages, Animal Kingdom never threatened and faded to eleventh in the field of thirteen.

While a disappointing effort, the race shouldn't take too much shine off an excellent career. A nine-furlong winner on polytrack at two, Animal Kingdom qualified for the Derby with a victory in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes, also on Polytrack. He rallied stoutly to win the Derby in his first start on dirt and only fell a half-length shy in the Preakness. A disastrous start to the Belmont Stakes cost him any chance in the "Test of the Champion" and he soon went to the sidelines with a slab fracture to his left hind hock.

Animal Kingdom's connections wouldn't have been faulted if the son of Leroidesanimaux was retired than and there. So many of our top thoroughbreds and classic winners are sent to lucrative careers at stud following injuries. Beacuse of this disturbing trend, many racing fans don't expect extensive careers from our star horses.

The Team Valor people were intent on returning to the track, however, and Animal Kingdom resumed training with an eye on the 2012 Dubai World Cup. A popped splint delayed matters, but Animal Kingdom finally received his successful prep in an 'n3x' optional claimer on grass at Gulfstream.

Unfortunately, the World Cup had to wait as Animal Kingdom suffered a stress fracture to his pelvis. Again, a retirement announcement wouldn't have been shocking, but Team Valor eschewed an easy comeback spot and decided to poke a bear for his return from the subsequent ten-month layoff. Animal Kingdom picked a fight with Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile and finished a rallying second despite facing traffic issues.

After finishing second to Point of Entry following a premature mid-race move in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, Team Valor took on the world with stops in Dubai and England.

Animal Kingdom now goes to stud in Australia and will return to Kentucky for the Northern Hemisphere breeding season. He'll be remembered as a throwback, a versatile horse that won on dirt, synthetic and turf and didn't duck a challenge when healthy.