Animal Kingdom, a longshot, surprised race fans by charging down the centre of the track to win the 137th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
The race, at Churchill Downs, was the first one on a dirt surface for the three-year-old chestnut colt, and he went off as a 20-1 longshot. He won by by 2 3/4 lengths in a time of 2:02.04.
“I had a really good trip,” the Courier Journal quoted jockey John Velazquez as saying. “It was a little tight on the first turn and by the three-eighths pole I was in a tight spot but I held my ground. Once I pulled him out by the eighth pole, I knew he was gone.”
Velazquez almost didn't have a mount for the derby. He had been scheduled to ride Uncle Mo, who was scratched due to a stomach problem. He was given the ride on Animal Kingdom because his regular rider, Robby Albarado, was thrown from a horse and kicked in the face- suffering a broken nose.
"It's words that you can't describe, but I do really feel really bad for Robby," NBC quoted Velazquez as saying. "I hope he's winning the Derby with me here. I know he got hurt so this is for both of us, buddy. I know you're not on it, but I know you're with me."
The Los Angeles Times reported that Animal Kingdom's owner, Barry Irwin, told NBC: "I can't believe it -- that's the headline. I'm just thrilled."
Nehro, with Corey Nakatani riding, was second and Mucho Macho Man, with Rajiv Maragh, was third. Schackleford, who led for much of the race, finished fourth.
The Kentucky Derby website reported that there was a record crowd of 164,858 at Churchill Downs for Saturday's derby.