The connections behind Animal Kingdom say their Kentucky Derby winner is better than ever after his comfortable victory in America on Saturday night in preparation for a run in the Dubai World Cup.
Animal Kingdom secured an easy two-length success in a claiming race over eight and a half furlongs on his first run since suffering an injury in the Group 1 Belmont Stakes in June.
The four-year-old colt was pushed wide on the left-hand bend of Gulfstream Park in Florida but answered immediately to the urgings of jockey his John Velazquez to finish the final half a furlong in 5.65 seconds. "The second I started kissing at him in the stretch, he picked right up and took off," Velazquez said. "It was a great feeling today and great to have him back. He felt as good as ever."
Barry Irwin, the chief executive to the owners Team Valor, highlighted that the fluid nature of the win left a lot to work on before the horse's date at Meydan Racecourse on March 31.
"All we were worried about was having him run too big," he said. "We didn't want to see a big race and have him leave it on the track. He's much better now than he was last year, we can tell by the way he trains and the way he looks."
The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby and then the Dubai World Cup was Silver Charm in 1998.