x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Early gallop around Ascot on Animal Kingdom is no breeze for John Velazquez

Jockey says he was lucky not to fall off the Dubai World Cup winner as they fine-tune the five-year-old chestnut's preparations to take on Godolphin's Farhh.

Animal Kingdom during a morning gallop around Meydan Racecouse just days before riding to victory in the Dubai World Cup on March 31. The five year old rides again at Ascot in under three weeks. Jake Badger for The National
Animal Kingdom during a morning gallop around Meydan Racecouse just days before riding to victory in the Dubai World Cup on March 31. The five year old rides again at Ascot in under three weeks. Jake Badger for The National

ASCOT, ENGLAND // Animal Kingdom may have come out of his first racecourse gallop in Britain in good order yesterday but the signs were there that the Dubai World Cup winner increasingly is becoming a tricky character.

Ascot racecourse opened its doors to Animal Kingdom and his connections to allow the five-year-old chestnut to go through a full-dress rehearsal for his tilt at Godolphin's Farhh in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in just under three weeks.

John Velazquez, who won his first Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom in 2011, flew in from America on Tuesday night to partner the horse in a full workout over five furlongs early yesterday morning.

As the pair drew level with the winning post, Animal Kingdom suddenly jumped over the line and almost threw the Puerto Rican rider from the saddle.

"He just saw the line where the grass was going the other way and tried to jump it," Velazquez said before returning to the US where he aims to close in on 5,000 winners at Belmont Park today.

"It is a new track and a new thing for him. He has seen something that is not supposed to be there. He was going fairly fast to do something like that; I was lucky to stay on him.

"He gave me the sign before he was going to do it but I didn't think he would."

It was the first time Velazquez had sat on Animal Kingdom for 15 months after Rafael Bejarano had deputised following Velazquez's commitment to Wise Dan at the Breeders' Cup in November. He then rode Point Of Entry at Gulfstream Park in February to beat Animal Kingdom with Joel Rosario in the saddle before Rosario made good at Meydan Racecourse in March.

"He doesn't feel any different," Velazquez said, adding that Animal Kingdom will sport a noseband on June 18, in addition to the blinkers he wore in Dubai that helped him win the world's richest race.

It is not uncommon for a five-year-old entire to develop their own ideas about the game.

Animal Kingdom has long found difficulty in breaking quickly from the gate, and he has become so headstrong that Alice Clapham, his regular work rider and groom, was sporting a bandaged finger after her charge took a significant nip at her during training.

Animal Kingdom's breeze with Perpetually, a National Hunt horse, was watched by John Messara, the Arrowfield Stud chairman who owns a 50 per cent share, and Barry Irwin, the head of Team Valor International, who retains a 21 per cent interest. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, owns 29 per cent.

After the workout Irwin was unsure as to whether Animal Kingdom would be good enough to hold off Farhh in the Queen Anne. Farhh confirmed his well-being by taking the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury two weeks ago and Irwin feared greatly the Godolphin challenger.

"I am worried about that one horse," Irwin said.

"He looked good winning the other day and he is fresh. You have got to give him a lot of credit and we are worried as hell about him."

 

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