Animal Kingdom eyes glory

DUBAI — Graham Motion hopes Animal Kingdom can prove his Kentucky Derby victory last year was no fluke by winning the Dubai World Cup here prior to his expected post-Royal Ascot retirement to stud this summer.

By Alex Leach

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Published: Fri 29 Mar 2013, 12:06 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 12:41 PM

The five-year-old has had a couple of notable injury setbacks throughout his distinguished career, with a left hind leg problem forcing his withdrawal from this sporting spectacle 12 months ago.

Motion believes nonetheless that Animal Kingdom is better suited to the task at hand a year on down the line as this “unlucky horse” attempts to validate that seismic success over in the States.

“It has always been my goal to prove that the Kentucky Derby wasn’t just him getting lucky,” Team Valor’s English trainer said.

“He’s the best horse I’ve ever trained; he’s an exceptional animal. I’ve certainly never come here with a contender like this and – quite frankly – I never imagined I would have a contender for the World Cup like he is. He’s a very versatile horse.

“I want him to perform the best he can and it’s important to me that he gets a chance to show how good he is. “You can make a case for him perhaps being more ready for this now than he was then too. He’s a much more mature horse and – a year later – perhaps he is more qualified to be here.”

One considerable factor that will help Animal Kingdom no end is his apparent aptitude on the all-weather Tapeta surface here, with Motion believing turf horses are better matched to it than their dirt counterparts. “He certainly should handle the synthetic,” Motion commented. “He’s won on the synthetic and trained on the Tapeta at Fair Hill, so I feel good about how he handles it. “It didn’t look to me like he was really having a time at workout and, when I looked at my watch, I was little surprised.

“That can be deceptive anyway. I gather horses do work quite fast on this track in the morning, but I’m very comfortable with how he gets over this surface.”

A slight concern remains Animal Kingdom’s propensity to start out sluggishly from the stalls, although Motion feels the expected slow pace at the start of this US$10m race should prove beneficial with the horse’s hesitancy.

“He’s had a tendency to break a step slow in the past and that’s hurt him,” he added.

“It hurt him in Preakness Stakes; it probably cost him the Preakness. He’s never been a real quick horse away from the gates, so – if anything, the fact that they may go a little slow early – it might help because if he does break a step slow, it might not matter so much.”

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