Animal Kingdom arrives in Maryland hungry after full-day trip

Kentucky Derby winner will stay at trainer Graham Motion's home stable, Fair Hill, until the day before the Preakness

May 10, 2011|By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun

Fair Hill — — Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom stepped out of his van Tuesday after a 12-hour ride from Louisville, set foot in the state for the first time and snatched up a mouthful of Maryland grass.

Then he ate some more. For five minutes, Animal Kingdom dined on a green buffet outside trainer Graham Motion's barn at the Fair Hill training center before being coaxed into his stall, where he ate again.

"He eats everything," Motion said. "He ate dinner the night after winning the Derby, which is very unusual. But this horse didn't miss a beat.

"Trainers always say, 'Lick the bottom of the feed tub,' but it doesn't happen too often with my horses."

Motion said his horse will "jog once around the track real slow" Wednesday morning.

"He'll have a couple of easy days training, just to see how he responds physically and mentally," Motion said.

Motion does not plan to move his horse to Pimilico until the Friday before the race. He confirmed Tuesday that John Velazquez, the jockey who lost his original Kentucky Derby ride and ended up filling in when Animal Kingdom's planned rider was injured, will be on the horse for the Preakness. ESPN reported Tuesday that Animal Kingdom's owners, Team Valor International, and Velazquez plan to pay Robby Albarado, the displaced jockey, an undisclosed amount.

Velazquez told Motion the horse was so relaxed at the Kentucky Derby, it caused him to be relaxed, as well.

"He's a very cool customer," Motion said. "Very laid-back."

Animal Kingdom appeared unfazed by his long trip, which included water breaks in Grayson, Ky., Clarksburg, W.Va., and Hagerstown, plus stops at two weigh stations along the way. Nor did the horse blink when the van passed through the Baltimore Harbor tunnel.

"I just turned his lights on back there and he was fine," said Keith Cooper, the driver. "Nothing bothers this horse. He ate half a bale of hay, everything we threw at him on the way. He must have gotten bored, because he started messing with his water bucket. I saw the water coming out of the van."

He rode from Louisville with his favorite pony, George, keeping him company.

Now, Motion will prepare Animal Kingdom for the second leg of the elusive Triple Crown.

"The whole things seems a little surreal, bringing a Derby winner back here," he said. "I think it will be a full field. I don't think anybody will be running away from him. He's an amazing horse, a brilliant horse."

Note: George Bolton, who won the 2007 Preakness as co-owner of Curlin, announced Tuesday that he's bringing Astrology to the 2011 Preakness next week. Bolton, from Brooklandville, in Baltimore County, and Stonestreet teamed up for Curlin's thrilling victory, and Stonestreet saw success in 2009 when Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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