Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom, who had originally been scheduled to make his 2012 debut in the Feb. 25 Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT), will now run instead in a turf allowance race at Gulfstream Park Feb. 18.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner and 3-year-old male champion has not run since last year’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I), and has been training superbly at Palm Meadows. The race will serve as Animal Kingdom’s only prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 31.
Animal Kingdom has already run over the Gulfstream turf, finishing a fast-closing second in a turf allowance race last March.
“I’m very excited to get him back, and now that we’ve entered him I’m extremely anxious,” trainer Graham Motion said. “I have been pleasantly surprised how quickly he’s come around. I think he got a good base in him at Fair Hill before he came down here. Once he got down here we’ve gotten some serious works on the grass.”
Team Valor president Barry Irwin added. "It was an easier ship. We don't want him to be too primed for a big race first time back. We want him to get something out of the race, and not leave his Dubai World Cup race on the course. Also, Graham likes the timing better. He knows the weather will be good this weekend and doesn't like the unkown of waiting another week and possibly getting too soft of a course. The Gulfstream course has gotten some rain and is in better shape in terms of not being too hard as had been the case when the Tampa plans were formulated."
It was fortuitous for Animal Kingdom’s connections that the allowance race, a non-winners of three 'other than' event at 1 1/16 miles, was able to fill.