Back in 2009, I put together a highlight reel of quotes and prognostications about Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird leading up to his upset victory at odds of 50-1. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.
This year’s Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, was not nearly the monumental shock Mine That Bird was, but at post time odds of 20-1, he clearly was not on the radar of many bettors.
With that in mind, I decided to again comb the prediction columns of some of the racing media’s most notable figures to see where they stood on Animal Kingdom prior to the big race.
Like the movie Avatar, Animal Kingdom received mixed reviews, but ended up making all the money. In the end, that’s all that matters.
As usual, I will start the proceedings with my own analysis of Animal Kingdom, so as not to give the impression that I am just taking potshots at everyone else.
#16 – Animal Kingdom
Won the Spiral Stakes
Even connections seem tense
About his dirt form
That is what we call a good, old-fashioned swing and a miss.
But it gets worse. Have a look at this post to my Twitter feed just hours before the race…
“Triumph The Insult Comic Dog’s “No Rules In The Animal Kingdom” came on my shuffle on the way to the track. Choosing to ignore that sign.”
That’s not only a swing and a miss, that’s a swing and a miss from a tee-ball stand, then whacking yourself in the face with the bat on the backswing.
Now, let’s take a look at how some of the other members of the turf writing community saw Animal Kingdom. Just for kicks, I have arranged the analyses in a rough order by how favorably they projected the horse’s performance, from non-factor to win threat.
Let’s start at the bottom…
“Bottom line: Can dismiss.”
– Tom Pedulla, USA Today
“Another complete mystery on dirt.”
– Steven Crist, Daily Racing Form
“Still has considerable upside, but didn’t beat much in the Spiral, and that race was six weeks ago.”
– Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form
“Animal Kingdom is bred to run all day long so the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby isn’t a concern. His pedigree is geared mostly to turf racing, however, so it’s questionable if he’ll take to the dirt at Churchill Downs.”
– Dan Illman, Daily Racing Form
“Brilliant Speed and Animal Kingdom are synthetic/turf horses who may or may not relish the track…Animal Kingdom could be any kind of horse but has trained well and has yet to miss the board.”
– Jason Shandler, Blood-Horse
“Given the dirt question and the fact his major victory came in a Grade 3 race, Animal Kingdom deserves to be 25-1 in a 20-horse field. Animal Kingdom, however, seems to be generating favorable buzz, and he might not offer great value in the win pool. But given his consistency, stamina, and impressive last race, he should at least be an attractive exotic-wager proposition.”
– Marcus Hersh, Daily Racing Form
“Worth using in exotics, for sure.”
– Jay Privman, Daily Racing Form
“Exotics Contenders: ANIMAL KINGDOM: In Graham We Trust. The horse looks outstanding in the flesh and should have no trouble with the Derby distance. There’s not a ton to like on past performances to be honest, but there’s an infinite amount of respect for trainer Graham Motion and I love the grassy pedigree on the dam side, so key in past Derby success stories.”
– Jeremy Plonk, ESPN
“I’m certainly going to use him in the trifecta, because people I respect say no horse had a better work than Animal Kingdom at Churchill.”
– Jennie Rees, Louisville Courier-Journal
“Yes, the dirt is a big question mark, and he’s bred for the turf, but he looked good winning the Spiral, and the horse he beat by 6 lengths came back to be beaten a nose in the Blue Grass. He made an impressive early move in the Spiral, so you know he has a turn of foot. And he’s bred to run forever, so you just have to take the chance that he’ll be as effective on dirt. In this kind of year, it’s a chance worth taking if the price is right.”
– Steve Haskin, Blood-Horse
“Trained by the very capable Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom would not be a surprise to hit the board at a big price.”
– Gene Menez, Sports Illustrated
“Love the way he won the Spiral. Watch out if he likes the dirt.”
– Andy Andrews, Kentucky Confidential
“Watch out for Animal Kingdom, especially now that John Velazquez is aboard. After all his bad luck with horses going out of the race, this is one man who is hungry for a Derby win.”
– Deirdre Biles, Blood-Horse
“Animal Kingdom is a beast of a horse who caught our eye last fall. He is long and lanky with a humongous quickening stride.”
– Bruno DeJulio, The Rail Blog – New York Times
“Roared mightily through Spiral field. Worked well on Churchill dirt. Trust in Motion and love the price.”
– John Scheinman, Kentucky Confidential
“Animal Kingdom is capable of a sustained drive for second.”
– Frank Angst, Thoroughbred Times
“I’ve got many questions about Animal Kingdom’s ability to transfer his form onto dirt, but the bottom line is that he’s improved as a 3-year-old, has the pedigree for the distance and seems adaptable to any kind of pace based on his limited starts. If he’s anywhere as good on dirt as he’s been on synthetic, he’ll be a factor in the Derby and that’s a leap of faith I’m willing to make.”
– Chris Rossi, Hello Race Fans
“Animal Kingdom will win the Kentucky Derby. I know this because I didn’t write a feature about him.”
– Claire Novak, Everything (this particular quote in ESPN)
Congratulations to everyone that cashed tickets on Animal Kingdom. To everyone else, the Preakness Stakes is only a couple weeks away. There is always time for redemption.