Barry Irwin - Royal Ascot
Barry Irwin - Royal Ascot

Barry Irwin

(Photo : Supplied)


Courtesy of Thoroughbred Daily News

The build up to Animal Kingdom’s appearance tomorrow in the opening race of the 2013 Royal Ascot meeting has been remarkable to watch unfold, as the racecourse has generated an unbelievable amount of interest in the challenge undertaken by our horse.

The media has been all over our horse and his unusual story, everybody jumping on the circumstance of AK being the first Kentucky Derby winner since 1935 hero Omaha to race at Royal Ascot. If you don’t believe me, Google it! The Depression Era Derby hero has replaced Omaha Steaks as the most searched item in all of Nebraska! The British are nothing if not worldly; after all, they tried to run the world for a long, long time. So they know a sporting challenge worthy of the name when they see one.

The international aspect of the various connections has really intrigued them, what with a home-grown English lad as the trainer, a legendary Puerto Rican as the jockey, a Kentucky horseman as the breeder, an Australian stud master as the majority owner and the ruler of Dubai as a racing and breeding partner. Toss in the international nature of a Brazilian sire and a German dam and the global profile is complete.

I spent the first part of the day doing the mundane, making sure I had enough clean clothes to last the rest of the week and picking up my Morning Suit from Moss Brothers on Regent Street (Ano, I don’t want to try it on again to make sure it fits!). Joe Drape and I were the only diners at an Indian restaurant down the block from the Corus Hotel, where last summer my wife Kathleen and I stayed when we attended the track and field portion of the Olympic Games.

This evening, Asprey’s (which makes trophies for such diverse and iconic sporting events as Wimbledon and the Dubai World Cup), hosted many Ascot connections at a cocktail party at their store on Bond Street, right across the street from Ralph Lauren’s shop, where polo shirts for men can be had at a mere 50% more than they cost in Manhattan. People keep asking me if I am nervous, or if I am getting excited yet, and what does it feel like? I usually only get nervous when I am anxious.

Anxiety is fear of the unknown. I experience it when I do not have a good feeling about how a horse will do. God knows that Animal Kingdom is facing plenty of unknowns tomorrow: running for the first time in a straight course, racing on an undulating course for the first time, racing in England for the first time and dropping from 10 furlongs on a Tapeta track to turf, on which he will try to win his first race at a distance as short as a mile.

I was apprehensive about the straight course before arriving in England, but I must tell you that after watching him work twice on an uphill straight, I am buoyed with confidence and I don’t expect to be nervous tomorrow. What I do think will happen, is about a minute or two before the race kicks off, I will experience a tiny electric shock beneath my tongue that has occurred countless times, beginning when I used to participate in track in high school. It is the anticipation of competition. Competition is why we brought Animal Kingdom to Ascot.