Animal Kingdom flops, Dawn Approach rocks Ascot
ASCOT, England (Reuters) - American raider Animal Kingdom flopped at Royal Ascot on Tuesday but while one lofty reputation was tarnished, another was restored when Dawn Approach atoned for his Epsom Derby failure to hand embattled Godolphin some respite.
Animal Kingdom's bid to add a Royal Ascot victory to his Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup successes ended in huge disappointment when he finished nearer last than first in a Queen Anne Stakes won by Aidan O'Brien's Declaration of War.
"I don't want to offer too many excuses. I am sorry it ended this way - we are deflated. Everyone was predicting him to win but they have to run the race," Animal Kingdom's trainer Graham Motion told reporters.
Seventeen days after starting as hot favorite and finishing stone last in the Derby, Dawn Approach proved that was just an aberration when he prevailed in a thrilling finish to land the St James's Palace Stakes for Irish trainer Jim Bolger and Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin.
In a dominant start to the prestigious five-day meeting, Ireland landed the first four races with the Eddie Lynam-trained Sole Power winning the King's Stand Stakes and O'Brien securing a double when War Command, an outsider at 20-1, ran away with the Coventry Stakes.
With a resume that boasted a Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup win, much was expected of Animal Kingdom but the five-year-old, with career earnings of over $5 million, ran a forgettable race to trail in 11th of 13.
Retirement now beckons for the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, the first Run for the Roses champion to run at the Royal meeting since 1936.
"I would say that is probably it (last race) for the horse. I think the experience has been tremendous and If I ever had the opportunity to do it again then I would absolutely," Motion said.
"I am sorry it did not work out - it is disappointing for everyone. There was such a good reception for him. It would have been great to see him do his stuff but he clearly didn't today."
A return to racing over a mile proved the oracle for 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach who displayed grit and determination to just get the better of the game Toronado in a St James's Palace Stakes.
Dawn Approach had to survive a steward's inquiry after a mid-race collision between the winner and runner-up.
Another Group One success was a welcome boost for Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation after the recent steroid doping scandal involving his trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni.
The Sheikh, who owns 51 percent of Dawn Approach with Bolger the other 49 percent, said he was fully supportive of running the horse so soon after his Epsom flop.
"The biggest risk is not taking any risk," a smiling Sheikh Mohammed said after receiving the trophy from The Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Britain's Prince Charles.
"Jim bred the horse and knows him very well, so when he said he wanted to run the owner was happy to support him. Today has proved to me that this horse is the best miler in the world."
A minute's silence was held before the start of racing for trainer Henry Cecil who died last week.
Cecil secured a record 75 Royal Ascot winners over four decades and his widow Jane, who has temporarily taken over the training license, almost pulled off an emotional triumph but Tiger Cliff had to settle for second behind Well Sharp in the Ascot Stakes.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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