Sabtu, 07 Mei 2011

'Perfect trip' is key to Animal Kingdom's victory

With instructions from trainer Graham Motion to try to keep Animal Kingdom out of as much trouble as possible in the Kentucky Derby, jockey John Velazquez made the biggest decision of the race on the turn for home.

He had only a split second to choose: Take the inside or outside route?

The two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey picked the outside, shooting between Mucho Macho Man and Watch Me Go and then darting past the rest of the field.

“The whole thing that we wanted to do was try and get some sort of position and stay out of trouble,” Velazquez said. “He did everything right the whole way around. And then when I asked him to run, he was there for me.”

Animal Kingdom, breaking from the No. 16 post position, was quickly tucked in behind a wall of horses and was about four lengths off the pace into the first turn.

Velazquez said he had a “perfect trip” and stayed off the rail and was in 12th position down the backside. He started to move on the outside of Midnight Interlude, and Velazquez stayed on the outside, moving past Watch Me Go and Mucho Macho Man.

“We talked last night and in the paddock, and we felt like getting a clean trip was the main objective,” Motion said. “That's how it worked out.”

As the field made it to the top of the stretch, Nehro made a move to challenge Shackleford who was on the inside but Animal Kingdom passed them both just outside of the 16th pole.

Animal Kingdom won by 23/4 lengths.

“I had so much confidence in him after the first turn,” Velazquez said. “It was a little tight on the first turn, and by the three-eighths pole I was in a tight spot. But I held my ground and had a really good trip.

“Once I pulled him out by the eighth pole, I knew he was gone.”

The pace of the race wasn't as fast as some figured. As expected, Comma to the Top broke on the lead, but Shackleford and jockey Jesus Castanon were quick to move inside and into the front of the pack as they headed for the first turn. The first quarter was in 23.24.

“A lot of times you get into a race and everybody's talking about how much speed there is and everyone decides to try to take back,” Shackleford trainer Dale Romans said. “They get worried about it. I wanted Jesus to go ahead and take advantage if that happened, and he did, and I thought he did everything right.”

Nehro, who had been labeled a closer after rallying to finish second in the Arkansas Derby, was never worse than sixth. Jockey Corey Nakatani said he “sensed” the pace wasn't as hot as he expected and opted to stay close.

“I knew if I slowed it down any more than what I was already, then he was going to bunch up his stride and he wasn't going to run the race I needed,” Nakatani said. “It didn't set up for us, but he ran a tremendous race.”

The slow pace cost favorite Dialed In, the Florida Derby winner who is a closer and was dead last for much of the race.

“It went the way we planned today,” jockey Julien Leparoux said. “But they just didn't back up for us today.”

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