Champion!

It was the second year in a row I had a near sleepless night after the Eclipse Awards through excitement! Last year was Zenyatta winning Horse Of The Year and this year of course Animal Kingdom winning three year old male. We’d all been watching all year after he was sidelined to see if anyone else popped up as a stand out above what he had achieved. There were so many good horses out there but we still felt his achievements (as noted below) were tops! Thank you so much for all the official voters for making our own superstar yours. It was also Graham’s first winner of an Eclipse award which made it extra special.

Eclipse Awards 2011
Three-year-old male

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Animal_Kingdom_web-1After three different horses won the Triple Crown races, it seemed the 2011 three-year-old male championship would be determined with important races in the summer and fall.

But summer and fall came and went with no three-year-old male taking command. In a year that no three-year-old male would win more than one Grade 1 race at distances of one mile or longer, Animal Kingdom’s spring accomplishments stood out as the division’s most impressive.

Victories in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3), along with a close runner-up finish to Shackleford in the Preakness Stakes (G1), lifted Animal Kingdom to the Eclipse Award. An injury sus- tained in Animal Kingdom’s sixth-place Belmont Stakes (G1) finish, where he was bumped early, forced him to miss the remainder of the season.

In September, trainer Graham Motion told THOROUGHBRED TIMES he thought Animal Kingdom had done enough to secure the championship.

“Ultimately, he won the classic race that everyone wants to win in what was his first start on the dirt,” Motion said. “I think people have overlooked that. He came back in his second start ever on dirt and was just beaten in the Preakness, and then we all know what happened in the Belmont.”

Animal Kingdom is the first Derby winner to take the 1 1⁄4-mile classic in his first start on dirt and is the first since Needles in 1956 to win the race off a six-week layoff.

He is the first U.S. champion for owner Team Valor International and the first champion for his sire, Leroidesanimaux (Brz).

Animal Kingdom is the first champion and first classic winner for trainer Motion, who previously was best known for scoring upset victories in the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) with Better Talk Now and Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) with Shared Account. —Frank Angst, Thoroughbred Times{jcomments on}

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