Kentucky Derby: Animal Kingdom Wins with Jockey John Velazquez

Surprise win for the first jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown

ByABC News
May 8, 2011, 9:20 AM

May 8, 2011— -- John Velazquez won the 137th Kentucky Derby Saturday, riding Animal Kingdom to victory after the racehorse's regular rider, Robby Albarado, broke his nose and was unable to ride.

Velazquez started from the back of the pack at Churchill Downs, and then worked his way to the outside before turning on the jets to win by 2 3/4-lengths – 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.04 -- in front of a crowd of 164,858, the largest in Derby history. Animal Kingdom, who had never run on dirt before, was a 20-1 long shot and paid 43-dollars and eighty cents. Nehro was second and Mucho Macho Man third.

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"For once, I'm on the good end of it. All of a sudden I pick up this one and he wins the Derby, so it was meant to be," said Velazquez, according to ESPN.

"It's words that you can't describe," Velazquez said. "But I do really feel really bad for Robby [Albarado]. 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."

Albarado won a $345,600 stakes race on the Derby undercard, but was not happy at the end of the race.

"Barry Irwin decided he didn't think I was fit to ride; he didn't know my status or situation. This just wasn't my time today."

Animal Kingdom is owned by Team Valor International, a partnership syndicate headed by Irwin, who switched riders when Albarado took time off Friday to heal after being thrown off his horse and kicked in the face.

"It was a tough call because I really like Robby. He's won a lot of races for us, but we got 20 partners in this horse," Irwin said. "We got a large investment and I had to do what I thought was best for the partnership."

The 136th Preakness Stakes begins on May 21.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.