2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, had his season cut prematurely short after having surgery performed on a fracture in his left hock. Animal Kingdom will not race again in 2011, although Barry Irwin of Team Valor is optimistic that the Derby winner will be able to return for the 2012 Dubai World Cup at Meydan. In a press release, Irwin also said that it is likely that Animal Kingdom suffered the injury as a result of the troubled trip he suffered while running sixth in the Belmont Stakes on June 11.
Unfortunately, this costs the sport of Thoroughbred racing some of the high profile storylines that go with any winner of the Kentucky Derby in the months following the triumph. There will no be no talk of whether he runs in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth or the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. There will be no anticipation of rematches with Preakness winner, Shackleford, or Belmont winner, Ruler On Ice. There will be no tracking of his progress en route to the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs this November. All we have right now are the memories and images of a gallant champion who won the biggest race of them all and gave his all over the next two races trying to make our Triple Crown dreams come true.
I certainly hope there will be no pinning of any blame to Rajiv Maragh for what happened to Animal Kingdom. Maragh, you may remember, was aboard Isn't He Perfect in the Belmont Stakes. Isn't He Perfect was held at fault by the stewards at Belmont Park for impeding Mucho Macho Man and the subsequent squeezing of Animal Kingdom shortly after the start of the race. Maragh was given a seven-day suspension for his ride of Isn't He Perfect and I think that is fair enough. There is no concrete evidence to suggest at what point Animal Kingdom was injured during the Belmont Stakes. There is no definite point at which you can say (watching the replay), "Yes, right there is where he got hurt." So, it might have happened right after the incident at the start. It might also have happened at some point on the racetrack while Animal Kingdom was displaying his characteristic heart and trying to get back into a race he had no chance to win. Maragh was given and served his suspension and that has to be the end of it for all racing fans, as far as that goes.
For now, all we can do is hope that we will be able to see Animal Kingdom come back in 2012 and live up to the expectations we all had for him following his Derby triumph. It may start over the Tapeta surface at Meydan in the 2012 Dubai World Cup or maybe he gets a prep race in before he heads overseas. Wherever it may begin and wherever it may end, I am looking very forward to seeing the career of Animal Kingdom continue in 2012 and very much would like to be there for the ride.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!