Strong workout for Animal Kingdom

Derby winner gets back in the groove of racing at Fair Hill

May 17, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom had another strong workout Tuesday, 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, and getting him there by 7 a.m.

Nehro out of Preakness

Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro will not enter the Preakness, owner Ahmed Zayat said Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

With Nehro out, that moves Isn't He Perfect into the prospective starting field of 14. On Monday, Concealed Identity, a Maryland-bred horse, joined the field when Ruler on Ice passed on the Preakness.

The Preakness draw is Wednesday and it looks like there are 15 horses contending for the 14-horse field. Currently, Saratoga Red is the 15th horse.

Zayat said it was a hard decision, but he wanted to err on the side of caution, according to the Daily Racing Form. The Preakness would have been Nehro's fourth race in eight weeks.

"I want to be super-cautious. I want to keep him happy and healthy for the rest of the year. We are in a great position to have a horse who can run in these classics. We will point now for the Belmont, God willing," Zayat said.

The Belmont is June 11.

Jockey change

Just like he did a year ago, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will replace his jockey after a disappointing Kentucky Derby finish. And just like a year ago, Baffert has opted to go with Martin Garcia for the Preakness.

Garcia will get the mount on Midnight Interlude, which finished an also-ran 16th under Victor Espinoza at Churchill Downs. Garcia rode Lookin At Lucky to Baffert's fifth Preakness win when he took over for Garrett Gomez after Gomez finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby from the 1 post.

Baffert described Midnight Interlude's performance in the Derby as puzzling on Tuesday, but did not appear to blame Espinoza.

Midnight Interlude "broke well and I think everybody was anticipating a fast pace and [Espinoza] grabbed him and he got behind a wall of horses, and he wasn't ready for that," Baffert said. "The next thing you know, he's 10 lengths off a 48[-second] half. He just lost all interest. He's really a temperamental type of horse. But I just don't know. It was a very puzzling race to me."

The good news for Baffert is that the son of War Chant has a lot left after his run at Churchill Downs.

"It took nothing out of him — nothing ," Baffert said. "He never ran. He was done after three-quarters of a mile. He just lost interest. That was it for him."

Baffert said the bay colt will jog Wednesday morning before boarding a flight from Louisville to Baltimore.

Looking for a jockey

Now that he's in the Preakness, New York trainer and Guyana native Doodnauth Shivmangal is looking for a jockey for Isn't He Perfect. Shivmangal gained his first Triple Crown start when Derby runner-up Nehro pulled out.

Isn't He Perfect finished fifth in the Wood Memorial and the Jerome with Channing Hill aboard. Shivmangal said he thought Hill made his move prematurely in the Wood, and said he was talking with California jockey Joel Rosario.

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