ELKTON — Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom had another strong workout Tuesday morning, perhaps his most focused exercise since arriving in Maryland, despite the fact that it was raining at the Fair Hill Training Center.
Instead of running him in the mud, trainer Graham Motion sent Animal Kingdom out on the Tapeta Footings synthetic track for the second straight day, but he instructed jockey David Nava to make Animal Kingdom chase after a series of horses staggered in front of him to get the Derby winner back into the groove of racing.
Barry Irwin, who runs the Team Valor partnership that owns Animal Kingdom, said he was really pleased with what he saw.
"You know, the first couple days he was here, he was running around like a teenager," Irwin said. "He'd come past the stands, and duck and dive and just be a jerk. Since then, Graham has given him some targets. There were nine horses out there, and he went after them. As long as he can follow somebody, he's fine. He was very strong throughout, and at the end, he did an open gallop. He was smoking. I think we're looking good."
Irwin admitted he's been a little on edge for the past week, ever since the Derby buzz wore off.
"I get out there and I hold my breath and hope we don't do anything stupid," Irwin said. "And then when it's over, I relax."
Motion feels somewhat similarly. The post-Derby glow lasted about a week, and he tried to do as many interviews as he could because he feels it's important to promote the sport as much as possible, but now he'd like to get back to business and focus on winning the Preakness Stakes. It's a race he's run several horses in over the years, including finishing third with Ichabod Crane in 2008, the year Big Brown became the the most recent Derby winner to follow up the Run for the Roses victory with a win in the Preakness.
"Everything is going well, and the horse looks good," Motion said. "It's been a busy week. I think I'm probably ready for it to get here already."
Irwin said Motion is still leaning toward shipping Animal Kingdom to Pimlico on Saturday morning, and getting him there by 7 a.m.