Leg injury means 'summer is over' for Animal Kingdom

Team Valor's Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness Stakes runner-up Animal Kingdom will miss potential starts in the Grade I Haskell Invitational and Grade I Travers Stakes this summer after radiographs revealed the colt has a left hind leg injury, it was announced Thursday.

Animal Kingdom was sent to New Bolton Research Center in Pennsylvania for an examination after he stumbled badly at the start of the Belmont Stakes last Saturday.

A nuclear scan done Wednesday morning by Dr. Dean Richardson indicated something was amiss with the colt's left hock. On Thursday, both Richardson and Dr. Larry Bramlage of Rood & Riddle veterinary clinic examined radiographs of the hock and discovered a small fissure on the tip of the cannon bone where it joins the lower part of the hock.

Bramlage said in a statement that Animal Kingdom would be inactive for two weeks but that the injury was not considered major.

"In two weeks it should settle down and he should be sound again," Bramlage said. "I don't think it is going to separate, but that would be the worry. Right now it is a tiny crack and technically you could call it a fracture.

"The good news is that this should not cost him the entire season."

Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor International, said it was still possible for his chestnut colt to get back to the races for the latter half of the season — including a possible start in the Breeders' Cup — but that the summer targets are now off the table.

"The summer is over. We're hoping to salvage a fall campaign," Irwin said. "If everything goes normally, he could be back in training by a matter of weeks but (Bramlage) wouldn't say how many weeks. But he did say we would not miss the end of the season."

Given what transpired at the start of the Belmont Stakes, it was not a total shock to Animal Kingdom's connections that an injury would turn up.

The son of Leroidesanimaux took the worst of a chain reaction of events when long shot Isn't He Perfect came over into Mucho Macho Man a few strides out of the gate. Mucho Macho Man in turn bumped into Animal Kingdom, causing that one to stumble and clip heels, nearly unseating jockey John Velazquez.

Though Animal Kingdom got back into contention around the far turn, he wound up sixth behind race winner Ruler On Ice. Trainer Graham Motion observed Animal Kingdom to be stiff the day following the Belmont and said he was marginally lame for a couple of days in his left hind leg, prompting the trip to New Bolton.

"Normally, no matter how hard a horse hits his leg on the ground in an accident, there is not enough force to show this type of uptake on the scan for a period of at least 10 days," Bramlage said. "This tells me that ... he probably had a little something going on in there that he was dealing with. But when he hit the ground with such force in the accident, he overloaded the bone and this is the result."

Jockey Rajiv Maragh, who was aboard Isn't He Perfect, was handed a seven-day suspension for careless riding by New York stewards on Wednesday.

Though his performances in the Triple Crown races put Animal Kingdom atop the 3-year-old division, his absence from this summer's key races will put an obvious dent in his chances of securing divisional honors.

"I think right now he is the leader but people have very short memories," Irwin said. "I think we're going to hope to come back and reestablish ourselves."