Trainer Graham Motion reported Wednesday that Animal Kingdom is
still on track to make his 2013 debut in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park
Turf Handicap (G1) on Feb. 9 after working an ‘easy’ half-mile at Palm
Meadows the morning before.
The 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner breezed over the Palm Meadows
turf in 52 3/5 Tuesday morning after being freshened following his
runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) on Nov. 3.
“He went easy. It was around the ‘dogs,’ so the time is a little bit
deceiving,” Motion said. “The idea was to give him a nice, comfortable
first breeze back. He’s had some down time since Breeders’ Cup.
“I was a lot more relaxed about it than the last time I worked him,
which was right before the Breeders’ Cup. It was a lot more pleasurable
to watch,” he added. “I’m glad to get him back on track and start back
up with the process. He’d been on such a tight schedule for the
Breeders’ Cup, I wanted to give him a little bit of time to get over
The disappointment of Animal Kingdom’s second-place finish behind Wise Dan following a very troubled trip still lingers.
“How can you not, when a horse has a troubled trip on that stage on
that day with what we were trying to achieve? At the same time, you have
to be awfully proud of what he did. It’s a little bit of a double-edged
sword,” said Motion, whose Derby winner finished just 1 ½ lengths
behind Wise Dan despite being blocked steadied on the backstretch and
blocked in traffic in deep stretch. “On that day, with that caliber of
racing, it’s so much about the trip. You can’t get away with having a
bad trip on a day like that.”
The performance was particularly impressive considering
that the 4-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux was coming off an eight-month
layoff due to an injury to his left hind leg discovered following an
allowance victory at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 18. His two-length victory
in that race came after an eight-month layoff due to an unrelated injury
to his left hind leg.
Animal Kingdom will be stepping back into Grade 1 company for his
Gulfstream start this season and could meet head on with trainer Shug
McGaughey’s multiple Grade 1 stakes-winning Point of Entry, who also
encountered trouble at Santa Anita while finishing second in the
Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
“This is a different deal to what we were trying to do last
(February). We were just trying to get him back to race. Now, we’re at a
different point here,” Motion said. “He’s coming off of one of the
toughest Group 1s that he could run in. I’m not looking to duck anyone
that’s for sure.”
Motion and Team Valor International are hoping to use the Gulfstream
Park Turf as a prep for the $6 million Dubai World Cup in late March.