Derby champ Animal Kingdom headed to Preakness

On a foggy morning with no racing, just the massive task of clearing the smelly detritus of a record

On a foggy morning with no racing, just the massive task of clearing the smelly detritus of a record crowd of 164,858, the Churchill Downs cleanup crew could have taken an example from Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

He scoured his feed tub, giving trainer Graham Motion every indication that he should target the Preakness on May 21.

Who may face him at Pimlico is much less clearly defined.

Animal Kingdom is scheduled to travel back to Fair Hill in Maryland on Tuesday, then he will ship to Pimlico perhaps as late as the day before the Preakness.

“He didn’t appear, to me, to have had a hard race, and that’s going to be huge for us,” Motion said.

“I had a great feeling about running this horse this week. He’s done so well, and I just felt that if he could handle the switch over [to dirt], he was a good enough horse to do it.”

Motion said that John Velazquez, who replaced the injured Robby Albarado in the saddle, naturally would keep the mount for the Preakness.

Albarado broke his nose at the track on Wednesday and did not ride on Friday, so Team Valor managing partner Barry Irwin and Motion switched to Velazquez. Albarado did ride on Derby Day.

After having some time to reflect on his first Derby victory and watch the replay, Motion said that Animal Kingdom’s run went off almost exactly as they had en­visioned and hoped it would.

Velazquez was able to get Animal Kingdom, who broke from the No. 16 post, settled in behind horses, but not so deeply in the thick of things as to leave himself with few options.

Animal Kingdom accelerated through a tight hole on the turn and had clear sailing on the outside once he got into the stretch.

“I felt that, at the three-eighths pole, that was going to be crunch time, if he was still hanging in there,” Motion said. “That seems to be when the horses that aren’t going to handle it, that sorts out the men from the boys. It seemed like Johnny had a little more traffic than I had realized. But, basically, everything went just like we said. The most important thing was getting a clean trip. I’ve seen so many good horses get beat in this race because of the trip they had.”

The respective trainers of the other two to hit the board, Nehro (Steve Asmussen) and Mucho Macho Man (Kathy Ritvo), said they’ll consider running in the Preakness.

Nehro has finished second in three straight graded stakes, twice by a neck. He was 23⁄4 lengths back in the Derby.

“All we can do is acknowledge what he has done for us in the last six weeks, and then at least wait until he goes back to the track

before we get ahead of ourselves,” Asmussen said. “We felt going in that it was a great opportunity and a very wide-open race. As we all know, things don’t always unfold the way you expect them to. I was very surprised by the lack of pace in the race, and I definitely think that affected things.”

“We just have to make sure everything’s good first,” Ritvo said.

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito said that Dialed In could run in the Preakness. The Florida Derby winner is eligible for a $5.5 million

bonus that Frank Stronach offered to the connections of any horse who wins one of several designated Derby preps, runs in the Derby and wins the Preakness.

“This horse, it might help him to just wheel him right back,” Zito said. “And you have to think about that. It’s a big bonus.”

Archarcharch, who suffered a displaced condylar fracture of his left front leg, was sent to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., Sunday morning for surgery.

He’ll be out of training for 90 days, but 70-year-old trainer Jinks Fires is optimistic that he’ll be able to race again.

“Dr. [Larry] Bramlage said it depends on how much cartilage damage is done. He thinks he’s got a big shot to come back,” Fires said. “We’ve all had them. We’ve got horses that come back and race with them. It all depends on how much it moves out of place.”

Fires said that, although he couldn’t see much of the race from the stands, he knew that something was wrong with Archarcharch when the field went by the first time.

Archarcharch, ridden by Fires’ son-in-law, Jon Court, stumbled shortly after leaving the gate and made contact with another horse.

“They saw him knuckle over and almost go down, stumble real bad,” Fires said. “When he came by me, I didn’t like the way he was moving. Jon had his feet on the dashboard, and I didn’t know why he was standing there rearing back on him. But I didn’t see the stumble. As short as I am, you don’t see much.

“He’s a gutty horse, really a tough little horse.”

It was an especially disappointing loss for Fires and Court, Churchill fixtures competing in their first Derby.

“I had as much confidence in that horse as any horse I’ve ever led over to a race,” Fires said. “We thought he was going to win,

despite the one hole.”

Pants On Fire, who finished ninth, bled through the Lasix in the Derby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said that Dance City, third behind Arch­archarch and Nehro in the Arkansas Derby, will be considered for the Preakness.

Categories: -Sports-

Leave a Reply