Friday, May 20, 2011
Now among racing's royalty, Animal Kingdom has been calm, cool and collected since he was born reports Kathleen Irwin on NBC Sports. This week the Derby winner with David Nava aboard went about his morning workouts at the Fair Hill Training Center in Fair Hill, Md. This is trainer Graham Motion's home base of operations and he is keeping the horse at home until Preakness morning.
Kathleen Irwin maintains the Team Valor International website and statistics, as well as coordinates the presentation on-line of new acquisitions to the stable. She is married to Team Valor founder/CEO Barry Irwin. The following is from post on NBC.
"This superior attitude was evident at an early age. In his first baby picture, taken by the staff at Denali Stud in Paris, Kentucky, where he was born, one can see that he tolerated the process of being photographed without being freaked out. Neither did he bleat for his mommy to come and rescue him.
He was just doing us all a favor by being there.
His first handlers in Ocala said Animal Kingdom trained as though he’d done it all before, a thorough professional with unlimited ability — a pleasure to ride and a thrill to be associated with."The instant Animal Kingdom crossed the finish line first at Churchill Downs on May 7, he became a member of an exclusive club — Kentucky Derby winner, a title bestowed upon only 136 horses before.
One might think Animal Kingdom’s life would drastically change, and in some ways that's true. In most ways, however, his daily routine is the same.
If Animal Kingdom wins the Preakness he will move to within one victory of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
Many think he can win easily and his cool demeanor will be helpful win the presence of the Preakness infield party that has become a right to spring for many in the Maryland area.
Animal Kingdom took the trip from Churchill to Maryland and his new surroundings in stride, and walked off the van as if he already ruled over every tree and blade of grass.
The throng of fans and reporters who waited at the barn for his arrival, and continues to greet him daily as he makes his morning walk to the training track, is definitely new. When Animal Kingdom was just a maiden winner, there were no crowds taking his picture. Even after he won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, no one sought him out to say they had seen him with their own two eyes.
In the week leading up to the Derby, when Animal Kingdom was housed in the stable area at Churchill Downs, the attention began to grow. But at that time, he was one of 20 entrants, and far from being considered a likely winner. As a longshot, he did not draw the crowds many of the other horses did.
All that has changed. The mobs of media, new fans, and well-wishers grew exponentially. The night watchman, who was added a few days before the Derby, was retained to discourage souvenir-seekers and keep flash photography at a minimum.
Does Animal Kingdom know all those people are there to see him? You bet. Does he know why? Probably not. But he accepts the attention as though it were his birthright to be adored.
Animal Kingdom does everything effortlessly. Although the Derby attendance was a record, and the colt observed the packed grandstands and paddock with his standard blend of curiosity and apathy, he seemed to approach the Derby as if it were just another race. The 18 other competitors formed the largest field he’d ever faced, yet he took the measure of each of his rivals with utter ease.
After returning to the winner’s circle, Animal Kingdom approached the excited group of owners, the mass of media, the instant appearance of news cameras and lights and all the additional strange new stimuli without batting an eye. Jubilant jockey Johnny Velazquez plucked roses from the winner’s garland and threw them over Animal Kingdom’s head toward the cheering people gathered around. The colt watched the flowers sailing overhead, his ears and eyes following their graceful arc through the air.
Still, he never turned a hair.
Many of the members of Denali Stud will go about their daily routine at the farm, but rest assured by post time of the Preakness, all eyes will be watching the former member of the Denali foal crop of 2008 and cheering him on as loud as they can.