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HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Animal Kingdom on Dirt? Maybe So

Animal Kingdom top story.
Zipse’s Kentucky Derby Daily – Day 6

Horsemen often like to mix it up and try new things with their horses. Changes like switching jockeys, or adding blinkers can many times lead to newfound success for their charges. An even bigger change in fortune can happen when the horse tries a new racing surface for the first time. Sometimes the new feel under their feet can lead to a lightning in the bottle type of result. You just don’t expect too much experimentation when it comes to the biggest race of their lives, but that is precisely what Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom will attempt in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

This year’s run for the roses will mark the Graham Motion trained colt’s first ever foray on dirt in his four-race career, but  he has enough going for him to believe that a big performance in the Derby is not out of the question. The belief in the son of Leroidesanimaux was given a boost yesterday when he finally got to work over the Churchill Downs strip, and did it in style with a sharp six-furlong work in 1:13 over the fast main course. With jockey Robby Albarado in the saddle, Animal Kingdom and worked in company with stablemate Meistersinger. Turning in fractions of :12.40, :24.80, :37.20 and :49.20, he broke off about three lengths behind his stablemate, pulled even before drawing off in the stretch. After missing a chance to work at Churchill due to the weather last week, and then an indifferent work at Keeneland, the impressive move was just what his connections were looking for.

 “As disappointed as I was with how things turned out last week, I couldn’t have been happier this week,” trainer Graham Motion said. “Last week everything did not go perfectly. Today, everything went perfectly. Just cut and dried, really.”

The news that Animal Kingdom likes the surface at Churchill Downs could be among the important news we learn in the week leading up to the big race. The attractive chestnut is bred to handle the distance, and has always given the impression of being a talented performer since the day I saw him wait on traffic and finish strongly in an Arlington Park maiden race last summer. Since that debut, he has improved with every race, culminating with a strong win in the March 26 Spiral Stakes. That day I was impressed with the middle move he made to swing into contention on the far turn. He seemed to dawdle a bit before early in the stretch, but came home strongly in the final furlong to win going away.

A move like that is exactly the kind that wins many a Kentucky Derby. After the Spiral, I thought if he takes to dirt, he would be my longshot selection for the Derby. Granted competition on Saturday will be tougher than it was last time, but after yesterday, I feel better about his prospects to take to dirt. 15-1 or more on Animal Kingdom to be draped in roses? Count me in.



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Older Comments about Animal Kingdom on Dirt? Maybe So...

Spot on. Well done. Thanks for the St. John's River notice as well.
a much better bet than master of hounds. i think as we all are, we don't make our final chocie till 10 mins before the race. i say 10 because the lines are nuts have to start wating then.
As I sit reading your columm from 5 days ago I wish I had read it before the KD as Nehro was one of 4 other horses I liked in the derby.After 45 years of horse racing the K D is in my mind the hardest classic to handicap because of the extra 1/8 they have to go and you don't know if they can do it or not until they run. Very nice foresight,I'll have to keep on top of your articles from now on.Again,very,very,nice article!
I guess he likes dirt! Great call, Brian. Keep up the good work!
After that work, and llistening to G/Motion, I can see him hitting the board under, not winning. Of all the deep closers, Dialed In looks better if the deep closers do get thru and often they do........for 3rd and 4th. You have to have a really hot pace for the race to collapse down past the stalkers and mid runners. I do think he is possible of gettin through under but no win.
The only thing I like about him is that he does have a couple 1 1/8's under his belt for some foundation. That's about it for me. i don't like that he hasn't faced much competition. But who knows, he may be craving the dirt and be a totally different animal on it.
He looked great getting over Churchill the other day, I love him as a longshot!
Brian I agree. if the value is there i'll put something down on this horse. also, rewatching the race i think Decisive Moment could going to set a fast pace with Shackleford.
The Spiral was impressive ... it really reminded me of a Derby type of move.
This year anything is possible...but I thought Animal Kingdom was impressive in Spiral since he missed the start and had to come on late


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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing since birth. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 
As Managing Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Brian also serves on the the Board of Directors of ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
A graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives in Suburban Chicago with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra, where he is a professional golf instructor when he is not following the horses.