When Randy Bradshaw broke and prepared Animal Kingdom for racing, the Team Valor International homebred colt wasn’t the most precocious pupil, but his potential to be a talented runner was apparent.
The future Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up arrived at Bradshaw’s farm training operation, which is based at Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs South in Central Florida, in the fall of his yearling year.
“He probably was about 15.3 (hands) with a lot of body, but he also had a lot of leg underneath him,” said Bradshaw recently. “Early on, when we started breaking him, I called (Team Valor chief executive officer) Barry Irwin and told him one day that he (Animal Kingdom) wasn’t going to be an early horse. I said, ‘It’s going to be more toward fall (of his 2-year-old year) before you find out what he is, but I think he’s a really nice horse.’ ”
Bradshaw, 60, leases two 36-stall barns at Adena Springs South, which has a mile training track and a seven-furlong turf course. Before going on his own in late 2009 and starting Randy K. Bradshaw Breaking and Training, he worked for Stronach, supervising the training program at the Florida farm for the multiple Eclipse Award-winning breeder and owner.
“Animal Kingdom was always one of those good-feeling young horses, the kind that walks on his hind legs and stuff,” Bradshaw said. “He dropped a rider a couple of times and he was one of those colts that it just took him time to get better at what he was doing. When the starting gate opened, he would just kind of stand there and the rider would kind of push on him trying to get him to go. It took him a little while to figure it out. It wasn’t so much him not knowing as it was him being lazy and a little resentful about us wanting him to do something that he didn’t want to do. But finally the light came on.”
At the same time Bradshaw had Animal Kingdom, the trainer had another colt for Irwin, Badleroibrown.
“They were both by Leroidesanimaux and honestly, I thought the other colt was a better horse than Animal Kingdom and I still do until this day,” Bradshaw said. “I thought Badleroibrown was probably going to be strictly a turf horse, and while I thought Animal Kingdom would like the turf, too, I also felt that he would be OK on dirt. I told Barry, ‘I wouldn’t be afraid to run him on the dirt at some point'. ”
Badleroibrown has raced only once, finishing second in a maiden grass race last year at Churchill Downs. Animal Kingdom, who left Bradshaw’s care in June 2010, is taking a record of three victories in six races and earnings of $1,983,700 into his scheduled start in the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
“I told everybody in the world to bet on Animal Kingdom in the Derby,” said Bradshaw, who worked with the colt again at his breaking and training operation between his 2-year-old and 3-year-old campaigns.
When Animal Kingdom returned to Bradshaw for a rest, he had run twice, finishing second in his career debut over Arlington Park’s synthetic Polytrack surface and breaking his maiden by 3 ¼ lengths at 1 1/8 miles over Keeneland’s Polytrack. For those races, Animal Kingdom was trained by Wayne Catalano, but the colt was headed to another conditioner, Graham Motion for his sophomore campaign after Irwin decided to give Motion all the Team Valor runners.
“He had physically changed,” said Bradshaw of Animal Kingdom. “He was fitter and tighter and had more muscle mass. He had probably grown to the point where he was 16 (hands) or 16.1.
“We put him out in a round pen, let him have a little sun, and hand-walked and grazed him,” Bradshaw continued. “But we decided not give him the complete 30 or 40 days off because Barry’s plan was to run him the first of March (in 2011). Graham and I talked about it and decided he would do a little bit of jogging and a little bit of galloping – just some light training, nothing heavy. By the end of December, I had him back up to where he was ready to breeze and I think I let him put in one work here before I sent him to Graham at Palm Meadows (Thoroughbred Training Center).”
Prior to Animal Kingdom, Bradshaw worked with numerous top racehorses when he was an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and a farm-based trainer for Satish and Anne Sanan’s Padua Stables and later for Stronach. He also trained on his own at the racetrack, guiding the careers of such prominent runners as champion Artax and grade I winner Urbane.
Bradshaw prefers the farm environment to racetrack life, so he has no regrets that he isn’t the one saddling Animal Kingdom or another 3-year-old on the Triple Crown trail.
“At the racetrack there is a lot of pressure to win all the time and I got tired of working seven days a week,” Bradshaw said. “I have other things I like to do in life like fish and hunt. It’s kind of nice breaking babies and getting Sundays off. You get a lot of satisfaction from breaking good horses; good horses give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. One like Animal Kingdom helps you from a business standpoint because he gets you a little publicity.”