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May 13, 2011

Animal Kingdom captures the 137th Kentucky Derby


Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Animal Kingdom, ridden by John Velazquez, surged down the stretch to capture Saturday's 137th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The time for the 1 1/4-miles was 2:02.04 on a fast track.

Animal Kingdom now has the opportunity to become the first three-year-old to conquer the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Two weeks after the Kentucky Derby comes the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and three weeks later the Belmont Stakes goes off at Belmont Park.

Setting the pace in the $2 million Run for the Roses was Shackleford in the 19-horse field. Running in second was Comma to the Top followed by Soldat and Pants On Fire. Dialed In, the 5-1 favorite, was racing last.

Animal Kingdom got a good start from post 16. He settled in off the rail about nine-lengths behind the leaders. Trained by Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom was racing in mid-pack as the field went up the backstretch and around the turn for home.

Shackleford, with Jesus Castanon riding, took the field up the backstretch and into the far turn. Gaining ground was Nehro who moved into third behind the leader and Comma to the Top.

Shackleford still had the lead coming into the stretch with Nehro second. Animal Kingdom, running off the rail, split horses down the stretch and caught Shackleford with 100 yards to run.

Animal Kingdom took the lead 50 yards from the finish, driving past Shackleford and Nehro. Velazquez and Animal Kingdom hit the wire 2 3/4-lengths ahead of Nehro with Mucho Macho Man making a late run to finish third and Shackleford dropping to fourth.

Rounding out the order of finish was Master of Hounds, Santiva, Brilliant Speed, Dialed In, Pants On Fire, Twice The Appeal, Soldat, Stay Thirsty, Derby Kitten, Decisive Moment, Archarcharch, Midnight Interlude, Twinspired, Watch Me Go and Comma to the Top.

Archarcharch was pulled up after the race and vanned off with a leg injury.

Champion colt Uncle Mo was scratched Friday morning from the race.

Owned by Team Valor, Animal Kingdom raced on real dirt for the first time in his five-race career. The victory was worth $1.4 million to bring the colt's earnings to more than $1.7 million.

"I can't believe it, I'm overwhelmed," said Team Valor's Barry Irwin.

The chestnut three-year-old has won three of five starts, including the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 26.

Velazquez and Motion each picked up their first Kentucky Derby victory. Velazquez, who was slated to ride Uncle Mo, replaced the injured Robby Albarado.

"It's words you can't describe," said Velazquez. "I thought I had a really good trip."

Motion also trains Toby's Corner, who won last month's Wood Memorial. The colt could not go in the Derby because of an injury.

Sent off at 20-1, Animal Kingdom returned $43.60, $19.60 and $13.00. Nehro paid $8.80 and $6.40, and Mucho Macho Man paid $7.00 to show.

A record crowd of 164,858 people attended the 137th Kentucky Derby.

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