Making all the headlines, trainer Graham Motion says it is on to Dubai after Animal Kingdom’s sparkling victory Saturday at Gulfstream. The champion 3-year-old of 2011 showed no rust in his first start since he was injured in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Team Valor International’s homebred had been sidelined to recover from a hairline fracture to his right hind leg. His first start since the June 11 classic was a sparkling two-length victory in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race that served as confirmation of his return to elite form, which of course, he flashed in winning the 2011 Derby by 2 ¾ lengths last May.
“He made ESPN Top 10 Plays of the Day. I thought that was pretty cool,” said Graham Motion from Palm Meadows Training Center.
Animal Kingdom is scheduled to race next in the $10-million Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) on March 31 at Meydan Racecourse, a six week break between races, which trainer Motion believes gives the horse ample time for him to recover. “I believe he is a special horse that did not get to show how good we was, and I hope he gets that chance this year,” stated Motion.
Animal Kingdom exceeded the trainer and owner’s expectations on Saturday, pulling jockey Johnny Velazquez ahead on the backstretch, coiled to strike. Animal Kingdom swept into the stretch from three wide and lengthened stride, accelerating explosively when switching leads to dispatch a challenge from Monument Hill by daylight for a dominant win.