TORONTO, October 20 – There’s nothing in Leroidesanimaux’ pedigree that would lead to his being rather presumptuously named “King of the animals,” but Goncala Torrealba apparently knew what he was doing.
Bred by Haras Bage Do Sul, “Leroi” (“the king”) is out of the Ahonoora (GB) mare Dissemble (GB) and sired by Candy Stripes, who was standing at Taylor Made in Kentucky at the time and shuttling to Brazil, where Torrealba’s racing and breeding operation was based at the time.
“Leroi’s breeder was a friend of mine,” said Torrealba, “and when he died, his sons dispersed his farm. I think he had three Candy Stripes weanlings, and I bought all of them, bringing them to my farm to raise them.”
The chestnut colt began his career in Brazil, making three starts as a 3-year-old, breaking his maiden and then finishing second in the Group 1 Grande Premio Associacao Brasileira de Criadores e Proprietarios do Cavalo de Corrida. That winter, he shipped to the United States to take up residence in Bobby Frankel’s California barn.
“My program had always been to breed and raise horses in Brazil and bring the good ones to America,” said Torrealba. “We thought he was the real deal, and I thought that Bobby was the best trainer in America. I believe in employing the best. It was an easy choice.”
Leroidesanimaux made his first U.S. start in an allowance race at Santa Anita in early January 2004. He finished fourth, which would end up being his worst finish in his stateside career.
Returning to the Arcadia track later month, Leroidesanimaux began an eight-race winning streak that would stretch for 21 months, culminating in the 2005 Atto Mile.
“That was my second time in Canada,” recalled Torrealba. “By then, everyone knew Leroi was the real deal. He was as impressive as they come.”
Sent postward as an odds-on favorite, Leroidesanimaux broke from the one-hole under jockey John Velazquez, who had ridden him for the first time in a 1 1/4-length win in the Fourstardave (G2) at Saratoga three weeks earlier.
“I didn’t ride very much for [Frankel],” said the jockey, “because he was in California and I was in New York, but he liked to send me a nice one. He always found a good horse that I could stick with, usually a grass horse. Leroidesanimaux was a good horse you could do anything with. He was fast, you could take him back, you could place him wherever you want.”
“He broke well and I said ‘You know what? I’m not going to take him back. I’m going to leave him where he is,’” remembered the jockey. “Coming to the quarter pole I asked him, and he ended up winning by 7 3/4 lengths. I remember saying, ‘My God, this is probably the best he’s ever been.’”
“He was expected to win,” said Torrealba, “But not by that much. It was the biggest margin ever in the Mile.”
The winning streak came to an end, by less than a heartbreaking length, at Belmont Park six weeks later. Leroi had been struggling with a sore foot, and Artie Schiller ran him down to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile, denying Torrealba’s horse a ninth straight win and first in the Breeders’ Cup. Nonetheless, he was voted the 2005 champion grass horse.
Leroidesanimaux was retired after the Breeders’ Cup; before his last start, Kentucky’s Stonewall Farm Stallions had purchased an interest in him, and he began his stallion career there. Several years later, he was moved to Stonewall’s Florida farm, and in 2003 we was purchased by Lanwades Stud in English, where he died from complications from a paddock accident in 2016.
It was while the horse was in Kentucky that he was bred to the German mare Dalicia, and in 2011, the champion grass horse became the sire of a Kentucky Derby winner when Animal Kingdom won the run for the roses in his first start on dirt.
“That day was very special,” said Torrealba, laughing in delight at the memory. “I never dreamed that he would do that because he was all about turf. Bobby didn’t even want to try Leroidesanimaux on dirt, and then all of a sudden, his son wins the Derby.”
Torrealba remembers with fondness the horse that had been raised on his farm, recalling him as a horse kind to be around. Chad Brown, Frankel’s assistant at the time, remembers it differently. Though Brown was based in New York and didn’t spend that much time with Leroidesanimaux, he’s got vivid memories of the multiple Grade 1 winner.
“He could be hard to handle,” said Brown. “His name meant ‘king of the animals,’ and he really believed he was.”
Steeped in tradition, Woodbine’s world-famous turf races have been captured by some of the greats of the sport including recent Woodbine Mile champs Tepin and Wise Dan; the Hall of Fame mare All Along who captured the International in a standout campaign; and the incomparable Secretariat, who concluded his historic career with a runaway score in the 1973 edition of the International. Join us as we profile Titans of the Turf, highlighting those who have triumphed on the Woodbine green.