Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom, ridden by John Velazquez, ran past Nehro in mid-stretch and pulled away to a 2 ¾-length victory to win the 137th running of the $2,171,800 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) before a record crowd of 164,858 on Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
The previous attendance record for a Kentucky Derby was established in 1974 when 163,628 were on hand for Cannonade’s victory in the 100th Run for the Roses.
The Kentuckky Derby victory was the first in the 13 tries for Velazquez and the first for trainer Graham Motion who had had two previous Derby starters. Velazquez picked up the mount from Robby Albarado, who was injured Wednesday when he was kicked in the face by a horse prior to a race.
Velazquez had been the regular rider of Uncle Mo, the second choice in the morning line odds for the Derby before that colt scratched from the race on Friday by his owner.
Shackleford, ridden by Jesus Castanon, led the field through fractions of :23.74, :48.63 and 1:13.40 with Comma to the Top in closest pursuit along with Decisive Moment, Pants On Fire, Soldat and Nehro stacked up right behind. Further back, Animal Kingdom was racing off the pace and in the clear.
As the field turned for home, Nehro went after Shackleford who had disposed of his early pursuers and the two hit the top of the stretch together with Animal Kingdom moving seven-wide into the stretch only a few lengths back.
Nehro passed Shackleford at the eighth pole, but by that time Animal Kingdom was alongside. The winner pushed clear at the eighth pole and completed the mile and a quarter distance in 2:02.04 over a fast track. Nehro held second by a neck over Mucho Macho Man who finished three-quarters of a length in front of Shackleford.
Animal Kingdom is a Kentucky-bred son of Leroidesanimaux out of the Acatenango (GER) mare Dalicia (GER). The victory was worth $1,411,800 and increased Animal Kingdom’s earnings to $1,738,700.
Animal Kingdom returned $43.80, $19.60 and $13. Nehro returned $8.80 and $6.40 with Mucho Macho Man returning $7 to show.
Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In, the $5.20-to-1 favorite trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Nick Zito, finished eighth.
Completing the field in order behind Shackleford were 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.