Despite earning his owner and handlers more than $1.5 million by winning the Kentucky Derby, champion thoroughbred Animal Kingdom is reportedly destitute and living in a barn, sleeping on straw and hay and subsisting on little more than oats and water.
"I have seen many athletes who have blown through their money and been left destitute, but never have a I seen anything quite as bad as this," says veteran sportswriter Frank Deford, who saw the horse's living space at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. "Animal Kingdom has lost all dignity. He just defecates right onto the floor of his small enclosure. He doesn't even seem to care if people are watching. I haven't seen that since I visited Lawrence Taylor for a story a few years ago."
Yet the thoroughbred's trainer insists that Animal Kingdom is perfectly happy in its current conditions.
"I don't believe in pampering athletes," said Graham Motion, who has trained Animal Kingdom from birth. "Not having every luxury met builds toughness and makes them competitive. Also, and this is probably an even bigger part, it's a horse. It's just a large, fast, dumb animal. Especially the dumb part. Did you know that they just take dumps while walking along, like nothing is happening? Even dogs try to have some privacy. Horses are idiots."
But others who have spent time with Animal Kingdom insist the horse wants more.
"You can't tell me that if he had an option, he wouldn't sleep in a nice big bed instead this hard, wooden floor," said Miguel Sanchez, who cleans the horse's stable. "And his food. Oats? I guarantee you he'd much prefer a big steak and a case of beer for dinner. If not, I would definitely eat it. I make $7 an hour. Also, Animal Kingdom wants a 50-inch flat-screen in here with DirecTV, including the package that has HD Telemundo."