Animal Kingdom, ridden by jockey Joel Rosario and trained by Graham Motion wins the Dubai World Cup 2013 at Meydan on Saturday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archive

Animal Kingdom is the name of Walt Disney World Resort’s exciting theme parks and also that of the popular American television series based on the 2010 Australian film of the same name.

But for the millions of thoroughbred racing fans around the world, Animal Kingdom can only mean one thing, a champion racehorse who won two of the greatest races in the world — the Kentucky Derby in 2011 and the 2013 Dubai World Cup.

So how did he get to be named after a kids’ theme park or a dark and twisted family drama.

Well he didn’t.

Bred in Kentucky, Animal Kingdom’s sire was the Brazilian-miler Leroidesanimaux whose name translates to King of The Animals.

So there you have the King of the Animals, king of the turf — or perhaps, in this case, the dirt.

Trained by Cambridge-born American Graham Mothon, Animal Kingdom was entered in the 2012 Dubai World Cup but was withdrawn just weeks before the race when he suffered a fracture in the leg that he had previously had surgery on.

However, he was destined to capture the world’s richest race in Dubai. After an eight-month break, Animal Kingdom returned to action and ran a huge race in the Breeder’s Cup Mile to finish a strong second to Wise Dan and ahead of European Group One winners Excelebration and Moonlight Cloud.

In December, a majority share in Animal Kingdom had been sold to the Arrowfield Stud with an aim of sending him to stud in Australia in 2013 as a breeding stallion. But his new owners also mapped out an ambitious plan to race the horse as a five-year-old with principal targets in Dubai and Europe in the early part of the season.

He arrived in Dubai well ahead of the Dubai World Cup in a bid to get acclimatised to the surroundings and also the new all-weather surface at Meydan Racecourse. And he did so with ease.

Sent off as the 11/2 second favourite behind Godolphin’s Hunter’s Light, Animal Kingdom and his rider Joel Rosario made every yard count. After trailing fellow American hopeful Royal Delta for most of the trip, Rosario sent his horse clear and he went for home to win by two lengths from British challenge Red Cadeaux.

Animal Kingdom went into the record books as the first American-trained winner of the race since it was switched from dirt to a synthetic surface in 2010.