‘Kingdom’ comes out on top in Kentucky

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‘Kingdom’ comes out on top in Kentucky


John Velazquez rides Animal Kingdom to victory during the 137th Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs, Saturday, in Louisville, Ky. [AP/YONHAP]

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Animal Kingdom sped past the leaders in the turn at Churchill Downs on Saturday and charged down the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby.

Jockey John Velazquez guided the 3-year-old colt, who finished ahead of Nehro and Mucho Macho Man by two lengths. An injury to Animal Kingdom’s regular rider, Robby Albarado, cleared the way for Velazquez to pick up the mount and once he took the reins, he rode his good luck all the way to the winner’s circle.

“For once, I’m on the good end of it,’’ Velazquez said.

For the last three years, the jockey has come to Churchill Downs with a colt considered a leading contender, only to have it withdrawn.

This time, he was supposed to ride Uncle Mo before the colt was scratched due to a lingering stomach problem. Then Albarado broke his nose when he was thrown off his horse and kicked in the face before a race.

“It’s words that you can’t describe,’’ Velazquez said. “But I do really feel really bad for Robby. I hope he’s winning the Derby with me here. I know he got hurt so this is for both of us.’’

The victory is the first Derby win for trainer Graham Motion. His top horse, Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner, has a leg injury and couldn’t race in Louisville.

Animal Kingdom was a 20-1 longshot in the lightly regarded field. He won the Spiral Stakes on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., on March 26, but had never before run on dirt.

Velazquez deftly kept Animal Kingdom out of trouble in the 19-horse field and the colt covered the 2-kilometer (1.25-mile) distance in 2 minutes, 2.04 seconds.

Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch, who started from the rail, left the track with a leg injury and was taken to the backside barns for an X-ray.

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