Animal Kingdom Rules Kentucky Derby

A 20-1 longshot heading into the first leg of the American Triple Crown, Animal Kingdom sprung a big surprise by taking the Kentucky Derby on Saturday in a dominating performance that belied the hitches that the chestnut colt had to endure leading to race day.

Animal Kingdom was never threatened after sprinting ahead around the bend, and eventually won by 2 3/4 lengths over Nehro, who had taken the early lead. Mucho Macho Man finished third in the race, which had no clear favorites following the scratching of several highly rated horses. Dialed In, a 5-1 favorite, finished a disappointing eighth, as his final push fell short.

Sharing the spotlight with Animal Kingdom was jockey John Velazquez, who had to endure a roller-coaster like chain of events to get his first Kentucky Derby win in 13 tries. Velazquez was supposed to ride Uncle Mo before the 2010 American Champion Two-year-old Colt winner was scratched on Friday due to illness, leaving the 39-year-old jockey without his own horse. However, Animal Kingdom’s original jockey, Robby Albarado, was forced out by a freak accident, giving Velazquez what turned out to be a golden opportunity. The rest, as the they say, is history.