Animal Kingdom on Track for Gulfstream Turf
Promising Bambazonki Reserved for Kitten’s Joy
Big Plans for Eclipse Awards Week

Animal Kingdom on Track for Gulfstream Turf

Trainer Graham Motion reported Wednesday that Animal Kingdom is still on track to make his 2013 debut in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) on Feb. 9 after working an ‘easy’ half-mile at Palm Meadows the morning before.

The 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner breezed over the Palm Meadows turf in 52 3/5 Tuesday morning after being freshened following his runner-up finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) on Nov. 3.

“He went easy. It was around the ‘dogs,’ so the time is a little bit deceiving,” Motion said. “The idea was to give him a nice, comfortable first breeze back. He’s had some down time since Breeders’ Cup.

“I was a lot more relaxed about it than the last time I worked him, which was right before the Breeders’ Cup. It was a lot more pleasurable to watch,” he added. “I’m glad to get him back on track and start back up with the process. He’d been on such a tight schedule for the Breeders’ Cup, I wanted to give him a little bit of time to get over it.”

The disappointment of Animal Kingdom’s second-place finish behind Wise Dan following a very troubled trip still lingers.

“How can you not, when a horse has a troubled trip on that stage on that day with what we were trying to achieve? At the same time, you have to be awfully proud of what he did. It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword,” said Motion, whose Derby winner finished just 1 ½ lengths behind Wise Dan despite being blocked steadied on the backstretch and blocked in traffic in deep stretch. “On that day, with that caliber of racing, it’s so much about the trip. You can’t get away with having a bad trip on a day like that.”

The performance was particularly impressive considering that the 4-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux was coming off an eight-month layoff due to an injury to his left hind leg discovered following an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 18. His two-length victory in that race came after an eight-month layoff due to an unrelated injury to his left hind leg.

Animal Kingdom will be stepping back into Grade 1 company for his Gulfstream start this season and could meet head on with trainer Shug McGaughey’s multiple Grade 1 stakes-winning Point of Entry, who also encountered trouble at Santa Anita while finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).

“This is a different deal to what we were trying to do last (February). We were just trying to get him back to race. Now, we’re at a different point here,” Motion said. “He’s coming off of one of the toughest Group 1s that he could run in. I’m not looking to duck anyone that’s for sure.”

Motion and Team Valor International are hoping to use the Gulfstream Park Turf as a prep for the $6 million Dubai World Cup in late March.

Promising Bambazonki Reserved for Kitten’s Joy

Lothenbach Stable’s 2-year-old Bambazonki would have been among the favorites in Saturday’s $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park after winning his only two starts on turf at Arlington Park and Keeneland, but his connections will pass on Saturday’s race to resume his career in the $100,000 Kitten’s Joy Stakes on Jan. 20.

“We’ll wait for the Kitten’s Joy,” said trainer Chris Block from Chicago Wednesday morning. “We’re looking forward to having a nice 3-year-old on turf and looking forward to that race, but with that said, we won’t rule out the idea of trying him on dirt at some point. He’ll run in the Kitten’s Joy and we’ll evaluate where we go from there.”

A $100,000 Keeneland September yearling sales purchase by Hard Spun, Bambazonki finished second in his career debut on Polytack at Arlington in late August, broke his maiden on turf next out there on Sept. 23 by two lengths and won a hard-fought neck decision last out over the Keeneland course on Oct. 19.

Bambazonki is among six runners Block has stabled at Gulfstream this winter, most stakes-quality runners as has been the pattern for the Chicago-based horseman the last few years as he has enjoyed considerable success here with such stars as 2011 Donn Handicap (G1) winner Giant Oak and Graded stakes-winning turf stakes mares Never Retreat and Askbut Iwon’tell.

All three of those stars have been retired, but Block and his family’s Team Block Stable have a potential emerging star filly here that could help fill the void in 3-year-old Leading Astray, second last out in the Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in mid-November.
An Illinois homebred daughter of Belong to Me, Leading Astray has won five of eight starts with two seconds and a third, scoring her biggest victory in the Pucker Up Stakes (G3) at Arlington in mid-September and finishing third in the Valley View Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in October before the Mrs. Revere.

Block reports that Team Block’s 5-year-old long-distance turf star Ioya Bigtime is getting a brief break on a farm in Ocala, but will return to his select spring at Gulfstream after Christmas. The son of Dynaformer won the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3) at Arlington in July and the Kentucky Cup Turf (G3) at Kentucky Downs in September.

In two starts since, Ioya Bigtime finished second by a neck in the Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland and a close-up fourth last out as the favorite in the W.L. McKnight Handicap (G2) at Calder on Nov. 24, all of the above run at 1 ½ miles on turf.

Big Plans for Eclipse Awards Week

The 42nd annual Eclipse Awards, to be held Jan. 19 at Gulfstream Park, will include a week of activities and charity events.

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Gulfstream will play host to a golf tournament at the Westin Diplomat Golf Resort with proceeds to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. On Wednesday, Jan. 16, a slot tournament will be held with proceeds to benefit The Race for Education. On Thursday, Jan. 17, Gulfstream will host a poker tournament featuring Hall of Fame trainers and jockeys to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

Finally, the Eclipse Cocktail Party will be held Friday night, Jan. 18. The party will include a silent and live auction to benefit the Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred Aftercare Program.

For more information and sponsorships call 954.455.6672.