As the first Kentucky Derby winner to race at Royal Ascot since Omaha came second in the Gold Cup in 1936, there was already plenty of attention on Animal Kingdom.
The 8/11 Queen Anne Stakes favourite stands to become the biggest money-maker in North American racing history when he enters the first day of the Royal meeting, and the man on board this year’s Dubai World Cup winner hasn’t done too badly for himself either.
By riding three winners at New York’s Belmont Park on Friday, veteran Puerto Rican jockey John Velazquez became just the 28th man to record 5,000 race wins in his career.
The 41-year-old can boast vast experience of almost 28,000 rides which have brought in some $287million for various connections.
That is the kind of pedigree that competitors in the Queen Anne will have to contend with, and although Animal Kingdom’s English-born trainer Graham Motion has been at pains to play down the chances of his colt, surely few others can argue with his odds-on favouritism.
Although lacking the kind of star appeal and backing that Black Caviar enjoyed at Ascot before scraping home in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last year, the five-year-old is expected to prove another popular overseas visitor.
Chief competition is likely to come from Aiden O’Brien’s 6/1 colt Declaration of War, whilst the 9/1 Elusive Kate also holds promise for John Gosden.
But the claims of Animal Kingdom and Velazquez could prove to be stronger, with Motion choosing to turn to the veteran in place of Dubai-winning jockey Joel Rosario – the leading rider in the US in 2013.
The combination of class and experience between horse and jockey gives the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner a real chance in what is likely to be his last race before heading into stud.
With no such plans to retire, Velazquez will be eyeing the next 5,000.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publication