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Animal Kingdom, Force Freeze Return with a Bang

Last year, for me, Animal Kingdom was nothing more than an over-hyped 3-year old. If not for making the Kentucky Derby field and continuing on through the Triple Crown, he probably would have flown well below my radar. Despite his Kentucky Derby win, Preakness second, and troubled but game Belmont sixth place finish, I wanted to see more from the colt. Unfortunately, that would not happen due to the injury he sustained in the Belmont. As a result, Animal Kingdom missed the rest of the year and never had a chance to prove to me, or any other naysayers for that matter, just how great he could be. However, the colt still managed to snag end-of-year honors, a decision by the voters that I still do not agree with. Earlier in the week I stated that I believed the Dubai World Cup was way too ambitious a goal for a horse returning from a major injury and extended layoff. I still believe that, but today, Animal Kingdom put some of my worries to rest.

 

Under John Velazquez, Animal Kingdom broke a beat slowly and trailed the field early. According to Velazquez, the colt did everything on his own, from moving up in the backstretch to swinging three wide on the far turn. And when called upon, the colt responded well, kicking away from his competition to win by two under a hand ride. Trainer Graham Motion and Team Valor were quite pleased with Animal Kingdom's effort, stating that he got exactly what he needed from the race, nothing more nor nothing less. The colt looked good winning in his first race since last June, and even I, one who is admittedly not on the colt's bandwagon, could not find fault with his effort today. Though I still do not believe that an allowance race is an adequate enough prep for one of the world's biggest races, I do believe it is a start. For now, all plans for Dubai are good to go, and maybe, just maybe, Animal Kingdom is a special enough horse to pull off this ambitious feat.

 

Speaking of 2012 debuts, Animal Kingdom was not the only one back in style. Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Force Freeze was also back in action in the G2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship at Gulfstream Park today. Even though the Forest Camp gelding returned to the races at a distance he had never before been asked to cover, he still came home a decisive winner. Under Paco Lopez, Force Freeze broke alertly and went straight out to contest the pace set by Amanecer de Oro. The gelding stayed with his opponent until the far turn when he took charge of the race. Despite Lopez dropping the whip in the stretch drive, Force Freeze finished strongly to cruise under the wire 3 3/4 lengths in front of second place finisher Troilus.

 

Today's win was a strong start, and first career graded victory, for the gelding who had one win in eight starts last year. Along with the lone victory for last year, Force Freeze also finished second three times and third once, making him a tough competitor in graded stakes races in both the U.S. and Dubai. With so many champion sprinters returning from last year, Force Freeze will have his work cut out for him again this season in order to remain at the top of the division. Tough losses to Giant Ryan and Amazombie last year prevented the gelding from becoming a Grade 1 winner, but if today's effort is any indication, then I would say that it will not be long before Force Freeze adds a Grade 1 win to his resume.

 

What the Nation is saying about Animal Kingdom, Force Freeze Return with a Bang...

I expect Force Freeze to have a good year, too. He has consistently ran well in the U.S. If you look at his racing record, his worst efforts have come overseas in Dubai. I don't expect him to go off at long odds at all this year. The secret with him is definitely out.
AK under the care and planning by the Motion / Irwin combo should provide plenty of thrills for his many fans in 2012.
Force Freeze will not be overlooked this year at all. He was against a bias at CD and Amazombie was using that bias. I think Amazombie is a solid horse, but not as talented and as quick as Force Freeze. AK looked very very good. Final 1/16 in 5.65 seconds off 8 months is nothing short of wow. However, I am with you on the opinion that this one race is not sufficient enough to prep him for 10f over a foreign track and surface, against some of the best in the world. If he had more time, I believe he would be our best shot, but he doesn't. Still, I'll be rooting for him and Delta.
I expect Force Freeze to have a big year. I think the track had something to do with his BC loss-Amazombie ran on the preferred outside path down the stretch. AK looked very good and finished strong, but beat nothing. Jury's still out on him for me. If he takes a lot of money in the North American pools in the World Cup, I'll take a shot to beat him.
Animal Kingdom and Force Freeze both looked really good yesterday ... nice to see!

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis
 

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, and it was her love of reading and horses that led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few short years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and get to personally meet and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

 

Before joining Horse Racing Nation, Ashley created her own blog Wired with Ashley Paige. The idea to venture into the world of blogging came to her when she realized that she had much to say about horse racing and no one to say it to at the time. Since joining Horse Racing Nation as a contributing blogger, Ashley writes as frequently as possible as the Florida Filly. Though she mainly covers racing in South Florida, Ashley also blogs about nationwide racing, industry issues, and from time to time offers her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry as a whole. Most recently, Ashley was selected to participate in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

 

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley lives in Central Georgia with her husband Chris and their two sons Charlie and Michael. When she is not covering the races, Ashley works with insurance claims, a job she is able to do from home in order to spend as much time as possible with her family. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is passionate about football, reading, and history and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.