American champion Animal Kingdom will attempt to create history when he steps out as a short priced favourite at Royal Ascot today in the Group 1 £350,000 The Queen Anne Stakes (1 mile).
Animal Kingdom is looking to become the first Kentucky Derby winner to win at Royal Ascot in what could be the stallion’s last start before standing at John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud in the Hunter Valley.
Messara bought into Animal Kingdom with the intention of adding to his win in the 2011 Group 1 US$2m Kentucky Derby (10 furlongs) at Churchill Downs with wins in Dubai and at Royal Ascot before commencing his stud career, and the plan is almost complete.
The first half of the assignment has been successful with Animal Kingdom having no trouble winning the Group 1 US$10m Dubai World Cup (2000m) at Meydan on March 30 and is now primed for Royal Ascot.
“Winning at Royal Ascot is one of those bucket list issues for me to do and I feel very privileged to be here with the favourite for the first race of the first day,” Messara said.
American based trainer Graham Motion realises that the job ahead is not going to be easy for the favourite who is facing the tough straight mile at Royal Ascot for the first time.
“What we are taking on is a huge challenge and he is probably a short price for what we are doing,” Motion said.
“When things look too good to be true, it makes me worry more. He still has to go out there and run his race, going into uncharted territory.
“There are so many variables. The weather, distance and doing the training here are all different.
“I’ll never train another one like him. The horse has had a chequered career because of his injuries so it is all the more remarkable how he has kept his form.
“What he did in winning the Kentucky Derby was pretty extraordinary he had never run on the dirt before and he ran with six weeks between races.”
Messara also agrees with Motion that there are several unknowns but has every faith in the experience of top American jockey John Velazquez.
“We have got to ride the straight course smartly,” said Messara.
“It’s a very tough mile, there’s a steep incline the last 150m and it is a real grind to the finish.
“We have to keep something in the tank for the closing part of the race but in our favour is that Animal Kingdom is a great finisher.”
“Even though Animal Kingdom has never run on a straight course or raced uphill, he has been training that way in England the last six weeks and has handled it all with great aplomb,”
Animal Kingdom is the $2 favourite for The Queen Anne Stakes, the first race of the five day Royal Ascot Carnival.
The William Buick trained Elusive Kate is next in the betting at $6.50 with Aidan O’Brien’s Declaration Of War on the third line of betting at $9.