Animal Kingdom continues to get comfortable at Fair Hill

  • Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom upon arrival at Herringswell Stables at Fair Hill Training Center from Kentucky to train for the Preakness.
Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom upon arrival at Herringswell… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
May 12, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg

ELKTON — Trainer Graham Motion watched Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom jog a mile for the second straight day at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, and he said the horse appears to be settling into his new home quite nicely. The horse, who surprised practically everyone when he won the Derby as a 21-1 long shot, had previously trained primarily in Palm Meadows, Florida.

"He's been great, but I think he'd be that way wherever he was," Motion said, talking to a small group of reporters next to the race track. "He's a pretty cool customer."

Motion hasn't decided exactly yet when he's going to bring Animal Kingdom to Pimlico as he prepares to run him in Preakness Stakes, but it likely won't be until a day before the race, on May 20th.

"This is just where we're comfortable," Motion said. "It's where I'm comfortable. It's a relaxing atmosphere for him, and I think it keeps him out of the craziness a bit."

It's been a bit strange, Motion said, to win the biggest race of your life, and then immediately begin fielding questions about whether or not you can win the Preakness.

"I'm trying not to think about it too much to be honest," Motion said. "I'm just trying to enjoy winning the Derby right now."

Motion said he's received more than a hundred congratulatory phone calls and emails since the win, and that it's been extremely rewarding, but also a tad overwhelming. He's still been getting to the barn around 5:30 a.m. this week, trying to stick to his regular schedule, and was hoping to get to his daughter Jane's youth soccer game Thursday afternoon. He had a relatively calm morning on Thursday, and walked his two Labrador retrievers around the training center while he tended to several business matters. 

But he acknowledged too his life has changed a bit.

"You're a part of history," Motion said. "It's something you're obviously conscious of."

In addition to Animal Kingdom coming back strong from his Derby performance, Motion was also really encouraged by the progress of Toby's Corner, the horse who originally looked like his best chance to contend at the Derby. Toby's Corner came up lame with a mysterious leg injury right before he was about to ship to Louisville, but after a week and a half of medical tests and rest, he has improved considerably.  Motion said he might even gradually begin training Toby's Corner again next week, though he has no plans to race him just yet.

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