Compared to many of the other horses that contested the 2011 Kentucky Derby, Animal Kingdom’s bloodlines are both unglamorous and turf-oriented. Animal Kingdom is by the Brazilian-bred sire Leroidesanimaux, who won $1,658,377 as a racehorse and was champion male turf horse in the United States as a 5-year-old. Leroidesanimaux stands in Florida for $10,000. When Animal Kingdom was conceived in 2007, Leroidesanimaux’s stud fee was $7,500. In 2010, yearlings by Leroidesanimaux averaged $6,882 at public auction. Animal Kingdom’s dam is the German-bred mare Dalicia, who won three turf races from 24 starts and $195,532.

Animal Kingdom was sold at the Keeneland September 2009 sale for $100,000. With his turf pedigree and his most prominent win coming in the Grade III Spiral Stakes on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park, the jury was out on how well he would run on dirt in the Kentucky Derby. Even Barry Irwin, the managing partner of the Animal Kingdom partnership, candidly said prior to the race that he did not know.

Fate took a huge unexpected turn for three individuals with close ties to Animal Kingdom: trainer Graham Motion and jockeys John Velazquez and Robbie Albarado. Motion’s supposed number one entry, Toby’s Corner, the winner of the Wood Memorial, had to be scratched Kentucky Derby week because of lameness. Velazquez was to have ridden Uncle Mo in the Kentucky Derby, but his mount was scratched the day before the Derby. He got the ride on Animal Kingdom when Barry Irwin decided to make the switch from Robby Albarado, after the latter was injured. Turns out, Albarado’s injury did not keep him from riding on Derby Day and he won a stakes race.

For a sport/business that writers often say is dying, the business metrics on Kentucky Derby Day were awfully strong. Derby-Day attendance was 164,858, which broke the record of 163,628 in 1974 for the 100th anniversary. 2011 attendance was up by 5.8% over 2010. Wagering on the full Kentucky Derby card was the third largest ever at $165.2 million and represented a 1.5% increase over 2010. Wagering on the Kentucky Derby itself was about the same as in 2010 at $112 million. The Friday Churchill Downs’ card that featured the Kentucky Oaks drew 116,046 fans.

Copyright © 2011 Horse Racing Business