Maryland horse racing community celebrates Motion's Kentucky Derby win

Enthusiasm for Preakness rises after Fair Hill-based trainer guides Animal Kingdom to victory in first leg of Triple Crown

  • Trainer H. Graham Motion celebrates Animal Kingdom's victory with family at the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Trainer H. Graham Motion celebrates Animal Kingdom's… (Getty Images )
May 07, 2011|By Ron Fritz, The Baltimore Sun

Bill Boniface of Bonita Farms in Darlington won the 1983 Preakness with Deputed Testamony. He remembers the buzz his horse created during the week leading into the race and after the victory.

He can't wait for the 2011 Preakness in two weeks now that trainer Graham Motion's Animal Kingdom, a horse based in Fair Hill, Md., won the Kentucky Derby Saturday.

"I think it will be a plus for Maryland, and, as you well know, we need some good news," Boniface said Saturday. "It's going to add excitement for the local trainers. It will improve the gate. I think it's a really great thing.

"As long as the horse comes out of the Derby in good shape, it will just add that much more to the Preakness."

Motion is a longtime Maryland trainer who was based at Laurel Park before moving to Fair Hill. Last year he won 14 races in 93 starts at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course. He finished among the top 10 trainers in Maryland from 1995-2001. In the fall he won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Turf race with Shared Account, owned by Sagamore Farm.

He's one of Maryland's own, said fellow trainers and horsemen here. Sure he's from England, but he learned to work horses at Laurel Park, eventually taking over Bernie Bond's stable.

Adam Campola, clerk of scales for the Maryland Jockey Club, who galloped horses for Motion at Laurel from 1993 to 1999, said he watched the race and "was jumping up and down. I was thrilled for him. Just absolutely thrilled."

He said Motion deserved the win in the Triple Crown race because he treats people and horses the right way.

"The horses come first. He lets the horses tell him when they are ready to run," Campola said. "He's very patient and he tries to make the horses happy. There are no races at Fair Hill, so they take their time with them, do it how they want. It's very relaxed."

Motion, who will turn 47 the day after the Preakness, lost what everyone believed was his best Derby horse, Toby's Corner, to a leg injury. Instead of running an injured horse, Motion simply moved on with Animal Kingdom.

"He has the horse's best interest at heart. You saw that with Toby's Corner," said fellow Maryland trainer Chris Grove. "He's very thorough. He's very well-grounded."

Grove is pointing his horse, Norman Asbjornson, to the Preakness and hopefully the Belmont. He looks forward to facing Motion in two weeks.

"I think it's a good story," Grove said. "The Preakness will have a good turnout that day, already, but this will be a boost. Here's a guy who worked on his craft in the state for so long. He's become national, but he started out here.

"My horse just keeps getting better and better. I'm really happy with my horse. I'm ready for the challenge."

Maryland Jockey Club officials are hoping for a crowd of more than 100,000 on May 21, and having a Maryland-based horse coming in as the Derby winner can only help.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Georganne Hale, director of racing and racing secretary. "We've been getting ready for the Preakness for a while. It does get exciting. This does make it more exciting.

"Having Graham being a Marylander, it's like having a member of the family win [the Derby]."

Hale said there has already been interest in the Preakness from some horses who did not run in the Derby and she's expecting some Derby horses to enter, so "hopefully we have a full field" of 14 horses.

"I think the Preakness will be a wide-open race," she said.

Deputed Testamony was the last Maryland-bred horse to win the Preakness. He's 31 now and "he's just as spry as he's always been. He goes out in paddock every day. He's happy as a horse can be," Boniface said.

Animal Kingdom wasn't bred in Maryland, but thanks to his trainer, the excitement surrounding the 136th Preakness could be similar to what it was in 1983. And, Boniface said, it couldn't happen to a better trainer.

"He's a fine young guy and a good horseman. I was happy as hell to see him win it," Boniface said of Motion. "He does all the right things. He pays attention to detail. He's got a good head on his shoulders.

"He came up through the ranks. He very much earned where he is right now."

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