Animal Kingdom Wins A Wide Open Kentucky Derby

With the unprecedented spate of injuries heading into the 2011 Kentucky Derby that sidelined many of the top contenders it was all but certain that a good sized longshot would emerge victorious. That’s exactly what transpired as 20-1 Animal Kingdom closed strong to edge Nehro in the stretch to win the ‘Run For The Roses’.

Dialed In was the 4-1 favorite in a race where only one other entrant had single digit morning line odds (Nehro at 6-1 was the other) which set up a golden opportunity for underdog bettors. Furthermore, there was very little speed in this race meaning that it was arguably the most wide open Derby in recent memory.

It was the first Kentucky Derby victory for trainer Graham Motion, who looked to be shut out this year when Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner was scratched from the race. In a field without overwhelming speed it was apparent that the likely winner would be a strong closer and that’s just what Animal Kingdom did–he ran down Nehro, who had taken the lead after early pacesetter Shackleford dropped back to the field. Nehro would hold off Mucho Macho Man for second place.

Veteran trainer Graham Motion experienced a roller coaster of emotions in Kentucky Derby week–he described the crushing disappointment he felt when Toby’s Corner was withdrawn:

“I about fell over. That’s a tough blow the week of the Derby.”

The victory was a resounding refutation to Animal Kingdom’s critics who had dismissed him as a ‘synthetic surface specialist’. Even trainer Motion wasn’t certain he’d be able to make the switch:

“This horse was so powerful today. I didn’t know for sure he would handle the switch over to dirt. This is a very special horse.”

Animal Kingdom paid $43.80 to win, $19.60 and $13.00. Runner up Nehro paid $8.80 and $6.40. Mucho Macho Man returned $7.00 to show. The 16-19 exacta paid $329.80 while the 16-19-13 trifecta paid $3,952.40. Superfecta bettors that nailed the 16-19-13-14 order of finish enjoyed a windfall payday of $48,126. Animal Kingdom became the first horse since 1956 to win the Derby after a six week layoff.

Despite Animal Kingdom’s Kentucky Derby win there are no plans to enter him in the May 21 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. This also means that there will be no Triple Crown winner this year–the last horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont was Affirmed in 1978.

Published On May 10, 2011