After examining a second set of X-rays, it was determined that the leg injury suffered by Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom was more serious than initially thought and he will not race again this season, Team Valor International president Barry Irwin said June 29.
The left hind leg injury, which is thought to have occurred at the start of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), was initially diagnosed June 15 as a small fissure on the tip of the cannon bone where it joins the lower part of the hock. At the time, Irwin and trainer Graham Motion were hopeful Animal Kingdom would be able to make a return to racing in the fall. But after veterinarians re-examined him earlier this week, a more severe problem was detected.
“A second set of films has revealed a slab fracture just above the small fissure noted in the previous images,” said Irwin, who consulted veterinarians Dr. Dean Richardson of New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa. and Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood and Riddle Veterinary Clinic in Lexington.
Dr. Richardson will insert a screw to compress the fracture June 30, after which Animal Kingdom will do 90 days of rehabilitation at the Fair Hill Training Center, first in Team Valor’s own barn and then on a water treadmill at Bruce Jackson’s equine therapy unit.
Irwin said he was disappointed but not surprised by the news.
“I didn’t believe (the initial diagnosis),” said Irwin, “and neither did Graham. He has been lame every day and it hasn’t gotten any better.”
Rehabilitation plans call for Animal Kingdom to rest for four to six weeks, after which he will walk on the water treadmill until 90 days have elapsed. Irwin said he will be off at least three months before returning to training at Fair Hill.
Though he has fielded offers for Animal Kingdom, Irwin said there have been no serious talks to sell or retire the colt. He still believes the 3-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux has a bright racing future ahead of him.
“This is a very minor thing,” Irwin said. “We don’t even have to do surgery, but the reason to do it is because it will cut the recovery time in half. I’d like to race him at 4 and 5.”
The initial plan is for Animal Kingdom to return to training in early winter at Fair Hill before eventually being sent to Florida. Irwin said his major goal is to have him ready for the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March, 2012.
At the start of the June 11 Belmont Stakes, Animal Kingdom was bumped by Mucho Macho Man, causing him to clip heels with another horse and stumble while nearly unseating jockey John Velazquez. After the poor start, Animal Kingdom finished sixth in the third leg of the Triple Crown.
Out of the Acatenango mare Dalicia, Animal Kingdom is 3-3-0 from seven starts with earnings of $1,938,700. In addition to the Kentucky Derby, he won the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park and was runner-up in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).