The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, plagued with injuries throughout his career, was on top of his game in the $10 million, Group 1 event over the Meydan Racecourse all-weather surface.
With Joel Rosario riding, Animal Kingdom took up station behind another American runner, Royal Delta, who made the lead into the stretch turn. At that point, Animal Kingdom blew past Royal Delta and set sail for the finish line.
"I was hoping he's got plenty more," said Rosario, "because it's a long stretch."
Red Cadeaux came closest, finishing second, 2 lengths in arrears. After that, it was 4 3/4 lengths back to Planteur in third. Side Glance finished fourth and African Story got home fifth for the Godolphin Racing "home team."
Godolphin's main hopes had been defending champion Monterosso and Hunter's Light. Monterosso was scratched Saturday morning when he came up lame. Hunter's Light, winner of two previous starts during the Dubai World Cup Carnival, didn't fire and finished seventh.
Royal Delta tired in the final furlong and finished 10th of 12, beating only fellow American Dullahan and locally campaigned Capponi.
The winning time was 2:03.21 -- slow on a night when the artificial surface was playing that way while three course records were broken on the Meydan grass.
Animal Kingdom, a 5-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux, is scheduled to be retired and shipped to Australia for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season. He then is expected to return to the United States to be available for American mares in spring 2014.
Barry Irwin, head of the Team Valor ownership group that sold part interest in Animal Kingdom to Arrowfield Stud in Australia, promised earlier in the week he would have an "exciting announcement" regarding his runner in a few days' time but would not reveal what the announcement would concern. There has been speculation Animal Kingdom could run at Royal Ascot in June before heading for Australia.
The victory punctuated what otherwise had been another disappointing night for U.S. runners. Neither of the American 3-year-olds showed anything in the UAE Derby, Breeders' Cup Turf winner Little Mike and Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Trinniberg both faded from the lead and both finished 11th in the Dubai Duty Free and the Golden Shaheen, respectively.
A U.S.-based horse had not won the World Cup since Curlin turned the trick in 2008 over the dirt course at the old Nad al Sheeba track that was replaced by the plush new Meydan facility and an artificial course.
Animal Kingdom, unlike previous U.S. runners, was proven on artificial footing.