Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), will prep for the 2013 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) with a start in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) Feb. 9, Team Valor International announced Nov. 14.
The 4-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux returned from 259 days between races Nov. 3 to finish second by 1 1/2 lengths to Horse of the Year candidate Wise Dan in a record-setting edition of the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park.
"I like the timing, the spacing and the surface," trainer Graham Motion said of the decision to prep Animal Kingdom for the $10 million World Cup via the February race at Gulfstream Park.
Between now and then, Animal Kingdom will have a respite, then be cranked up again to run 1 1/8 miles on the turf. He will have 50 days between that start and the March 30 renewal of the World Cup, 1 1/4 miles on Tapeta at Meydan.
"I like racing him on grass again, because it is kinder on horses, and he won over the Gulfstream Park course this year and showed a liking for it," Motion said. "He also raced on the grass a year earlier at 3. So he should feel at home. As for getting used to the track in Dubai, it is made of Tapeta and while it may not be exactly the same as our course at home or the one as Presque Isle, it should be close enough, so that I am not worried about how he will handle it."
In his only other start of 2012, Animal Kingdom scored in a Gulfstream allowance race Feb. 18 in what was intended to be his prep for this year's Dubai World Cup, but then went to the sidelines with a stress fracture of the ilium.
At Motion's suggestion, he returned from the layoff in the Breeders' Cup Mile and turned in a remarkable effort; hindered by traffic trouble in much of the stretch, he made an emphatic rally, shading :23 seconds in the final quarter, to get up for second in the final strides.
Animal Kingdom was bred in Kentucky by Team Valor and foaled and raised at Denali. He is out of the Acatenango mare Dalicia. His runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile improved his record to 4-4 from nine starts, with earnings of $2,327,500.