Ascot, England// Animal Kingdom found a third continent a step too far Tuesday at Royal Ascot where he flopped badly in the Queen Anne Stakes won by Aidan O'Brien's Declaration Of War.
John Velazquez, the Puerto Rican jockey, had flown from America to ride the horse he partnered to Kentucky Derby success two years ago, and as soon as the gates opened his mount appeared to struggle.
Animal Kingdom lacked any cover from the outside Gate 13 and Velazquez battled with the five-year-old chestnut, whose behaviour has become increasingly temperamental these past few weeks, for the first two furlongs.
Velazquez started to pump away in the saddle at the halfway point and Animal Kingdom recorded the slowest time for the third-last furlong of any horse in the field before fading badly to finish 11th of the 13 runners. It was an ignominious end to Animal Kingdom's career after the glory of his Dubai World Cup triumph in March.
"We are deflated. A lot of effort has gone into this and it has been a lot of work," trainer Graham Motion said. "When everyone was predicting he was going to win the horse still has got to run their race.
"I always had reservations about what we were dealing with. It was an awkward post and Johnny had a hard time getting him settled.
"I'm just sorry it ended this way."
Animal Kingdom becomes the latest Dubai World Cup winner to fall foul of the Meydan Racecourse hoodoo.
No horse that has won the world's most valuable race at the Dubai facility, built in 2010, has gone on to win another race.
Gloria De Campeao produced a fine effort to finish second in the International Cup in Singapore two months after his finest hour in 2010 but both Victoire Pisa (2011) and Monterosso (2012) were abject failures after producing their career-defining display.
"In the World Cup, whatever anyone wants to say about it, he proved his mettle that day and this was a completely different challenge," Motion said.
"Every horse is allowed to have a bad day and that was the first one he has ever had."
Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid's Aljamaheer and Princess Haya's Gregorian appeared to have the race between them with a quarter of a mile to go, but Declaration Of War, who was thrashed at Newbury last month by Godolphin's Farhh in the Lockinge Stakes, came with a late run to claim the spoils under Joseph O'Brien.
"We always thought the world of this horse," the trainer O'Brien said. "We found out in the Lockinge that he had a lot of speed and we rode him that way today. I hadn't trained him hard enough for that race. He is a big horse capable of taking training and I didn't get it right."
Where O'Brien got it wrong, his former mentor Jim Bolger got it spectacularly right by producing Godolphin's Dawn Approach to win the St James's Palace Stakes just 17 days after his defeat in the English Derby.
Dawn Approach blew his chance at Epsom by pulling so hard his tank emptied almost as soon as the gates opened but the English 2000 Guineas victor had been working well at Bolger's Colcullen base since.
Bolger texted Simon Crisford last week to ask the Godolphin racing manager whether he could run Dawn Approach at Ascot and after Dawn Approach had edged out Toronado by a short head Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was proud of both horse and trainer.
"That is why he is the best miler in the world," Sheikh Mohammed said. "He is a very tough horse and the plan was to settle him behind horses. Jim Bolger is a pioneer."
Dawn Approach was one of four winners trained in Ireland on the first of the five-day royal meet, which also included Sole Power, who denied Mike de Kock's Shea Shea a historic first victory here for South Africa on the line in the King's Stand Stand Stakes.
Under Christophe Soumillon Shea Shea raced on the far side of the track and was only inches away from adding to his victory in the Al Quoz Sprint in March, when Sole Power was only fourth.
Johnny Murtagh had other ideas, however, and on the stands' side of the track he urged Sole Power to help register the Irishman's 40th success at the royal meeting.
"I didn't see the other horse until late but I thought I hit the line well and was confident I was going to get there. I had to look over to the big screen to see if I had it," Murtagh said.
Royal Ascot day one results
Queen Anne Stakes
Winner: Declaration Of War
King’s Stand Stakes
Winner: Sole Power
St James’s Palace Stakes
Winner: Dawn Approach
Winner: War Command
Winner: Well Sharp
Windsor Castle Stakes
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