December 1, 2023

Sunny Skies, Animal Kingdom’s first Northern Hemisphere winner, shines at Keeneland

Sunny Skies gave Animal Kingdom his first Northern Hemisphere starter and winner (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Champion Animal Kingdom, already the sire of three winners in Australia, got off the mark in Northern Hemisphere in style Thursday when Sunny Skies romped at Keeneland.

Making her career debut for trainer Ken McPeek in the 1ST race, the Normandy Farm homebred performed right up to her 3-5 favoritism. The chestnut filly soon sped her way to the front through an opening quarter in :22.69, widened her advantage to four lengths at the half in :46.02, and more than doubled her margin to nine lengths at the wire. Under Corey Lanerie, Sunny Skies finished the 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight in :52.33.

As a yearling, Sunny Skies was offered at Keeneland September through the Warrendale Sales consignment, but RNA’d for $47,000. That looks like a fortuitous retention now.

Out of the unraced Marquetry mare Skyscape, Sunny Skies is a half-sister to Grade 2-winning turfiste Sky Cape (by Najran) as well as the stakes-placed pair of Reality Show and K O Love.

Animal Kingdom turned the rare Kentucky Derby (G1)/Dubai World Cup (G1) double in 2011 and 2013, respectively, a feat matched only by Hall of Famer Silver Charm and two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome. A Team Valor homebred, the three-year-old champion of 2011 also landed the Spiral (G3) and placed second in the Preakness (G1), 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and 2013 Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) for trainer Graham Motion. Animal Kingdom, who broke his maiden as a juvenile for Wayne Catalano, bankrolled $8,387,500 from a 12-5-5-0 line.

Retired to Arrowfield Stud in Australia in time for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season in 2013, Animal Kingdom is responsible for three winners Down Under. Earth Angel (out of champion Miss Finland) garnered the “TDN Rising Star” label for her victorious debut at Ballarat March 8. Next came Platinum, also at Ballarat, March 21, and most recently Lord Cecil followed suit at Muswellbrook April 21.

Animal Kingdom stood his first Northern Hemisphere season at Darley’s Jonabell near Lexington, Kentucky, in 2014. Sunny Skies represented his first starter here.

Sired by the Blushing Groom-line champion Leroidesanimaux, Animal Kingdom is the first registered foal from Group 3 winner Dalicia, by Acatenango and from a productive German family.

The cosmopolitan nine-year-old stallion stands at Jonabell for $30,000, stands and nurses.