Making his first start over a dirt surface, 20-to-1 long shot Animal Kingdom came from the middle of the pack to storm down the center of the track at Churchill Downs and capture the 137th running of the $2,171,800 Kentucky Derby (Grade I) presented by Yum! Brands by nearly three lengths.
It was a massive twist of fate for both trainer Graham Motion, who lost one of the top choices with the scratch of Toby’s Corner earlier in the week, and jockey John Velazquez, who with the scratch of Uncle Mo lost a third mount on a potential Derby favorite in as many years, but picked up the mount on Animal Kingdom after Robby Albarado broke his nose.
“It’s words that you can’t describe,” Velazquez told NBC’s Donna Brothers after the race. “I feel really bad for Robby. I know he got hurt. But, this is for both of us buddy.”
The son of turf champion Leroidesanimaux was coming off a resounding win in the Spiral Stakes (Grade II) at Turfway Park and has now won 3-of-5 lifetime starts with a pair of second place finishes.
“I can’t believe it,” said owner Barry Irwin of Team Valor International, who purchased the colt for $100,000 at Keeneland in 2009. “I’m overwhelmed and thrilled for my clients and family.”
After overcast skies and drizzle earlier in the day, the sun shined bright by post-time above a record crowd of 164,858, eclipsing the mark set in 1974 by 1,000.
The nation’s leading trainer Steve Asmussen is still winless in the world’s most famous horse race after his 8-to-1 co-second choice Nehro had to settle for second in his third straight race after leading into the home stretch. He had previously finished a neck behind Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby (Grade I) and Pants on Fire in the Louisiana Derby (Grade II).
Rounding out the trifecta that paid just under $2,000 for $1 was 9-to-1 co-third choice Mucho Macho Man, who also finished third in the Louisiana Derby. His trainer Kathy Rtivo’s life was in the balance just three years ago, but after a successful heart transplant was able to live her dream of running a horse in the Kentucky Derby.
Sent off as the lukewarm 5-to-1 favorite, Florida Derby (Grade I) winner Dialed In disappointed and finished eighth for trainer trainer Nick Zito, who was looking for his first Derby victory since 1994.
It was also disappointment for the father-in-law/son-in-law combo of and trainer William “Jinx” Fires and jockey Jon Court in their first Derby when Archarcharch had to be pulled up past the finish line and walked onto the horse ambulance after finishing 15th. His prognosis for survival is positive, but his racing career is likely over.
After winning the Kentucky Oaks with Plum Pretty yesterday, Bob Baffert was looking to become the first trainer in 60 years to pull off the Oaks/Derby double, but his Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) winner Midnight Interlude was uncomfortable throughout and finished far back in 16th place.
Making just the sixth appearance for a female jockey in the Run for the Roses, Rosie Naprvanik was bet down to the other 8-to-1 choice with Pants on Fire, but was unable to become the first woman to win the Derby, finishing ninth.
Looking to win the Kentucky Derby for the third straight year and fourth time in the last five years, Calvin Borel and Sunland Derby (Grade III) winner Twice the Appeal we’re also bet all the way down to 11-to-1, but finished 10th.
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