Animal Kingdom came and saw Royal Ascot, but he did not conquer it.
“Not that there was any shame in that,” writes the New York Times’ Joe Drape, who is in England for the venerable race course’s 302nd meeting. Sure, there was disappointment on the faces of the connections, including Team Valor’s Barry Irwin and trainer Graham Motion, as Animal Kingdom struggled on the one-mile straightaway and finished 11th in the Queen Anne Stakes, ahead of only two competitors.
It seemed a stunning result following the son of Leroidesanimaux’s impressive victory in the Dubai World Cup in March. All signs had pointed to a career-topper of historic proportions – the first Kentucky Derby winner to emerge victorious at Ascot. But it was a difficult proposition, not reflected in his heavily-favored status at post time. Drape writes:
“So, the scene was set. America’s horse was going to take on one of the oldest and most elegant events in all of horse racing. The morning-coated, top-hatted throngs and the bookies standing on their boxes before the odds boards were all O.K. with it. They were happy the first Kentucky Derby winner in more than 75 years had made the trip and graced them with his presence.
“And then the gates opened. Dreams are not official until your horse crosses the finish line ahead of the others, which is why they run the races in the first place.”