Animal Kingdom in the winner's circle at the
137th Kentucky Derby.
(Florence, Ky.) – As Animal Kingdom sprinted to the finish line and immortality as the winner of the 137th Kentucky Derby Saturday, folks at Turfway Park thought it a familiar sight.
Animal Kingdom overcame 20-1 odds to win the biggest race in the sport at Churchill Downs by 2 ¾ lengths ridden by jockey John Velazquez. He may not have been there had he not took first in a race earlier this spring at Turfway Park in Florence.
Team Valor International’s horse had won the $500,000 Winery Racing Spiral Stakes on March 26, giving him just enough earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
The two races looked similar as Animal Kingdom began each race towards the back of the pack, but surged forward down the final stretch.
"We are thrilled to have prepped the Derby winner at Turfway," said Turfway Park president Robert Elliston. "Our congratulations go out to all the connections—Team Valor, (trainer H.) Graham Motion, and Johnny V. We are proud Barry Irwin and Graham decided to bring their contender to Turfway to prep for the most important race of his career.”
Elliston also said that Animal Kingdom’s win is helping put to rest speculation that horses who run well on Turfway’s synthetic track don’t do well on other surfaces. The winner had never raced on dirt prior to Saturday.
"We're also proud that the outstanding record of safety Turfway has built racing on Polytrack has helped give trainers the confidence to prep here. And we’re very happy to put to rest the myth that a horse that excels on an all-weather surface like Polytrack can't take that same form to the highest levels on dirt. Animal Kingdom is a splendid, well-trained colt and a deserving winner, and he got a smart ride from a skilled jockey," said Elliston.
The last Kentucky Derby winner to prep at Turfway was Lil E. Tee in 1992.