Trainer Graham Motion entered last year’s Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old in a $60,000 turf allowance, carded as the fifth race on an 11-race program. Owned by Team Valor International, Animal Kingdom has been training strongly at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s state-of-the-art training center in Boynton Beach, for his 2012 debut.
Animal Kingdom’s return will come in a 1 1/16-mile race for non-winners of three races other than maiden, claiming or starter. Estimated post time will be 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s race is designed by Motion as a prep for a scheduled start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31.
Animal Kingdom launched his 3-year-old campaign last March at Gulfstream Park, where he finished second in a turf allowance with a late-closing effort that was compromised by a slow start. That performance encouraged Motion and Team Valor International to start their colt in the $500,000 Spiral (G3) over Turfway Park’s synthetic track less than a month later, and the Kentucky-bred colt responded with a 2 ¾-length triumph that gave him more than enough graded-stakes earnings to qualify for a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.
Following a brilliant workout at Churchill Downs, the decision was made to run Animal Kingdom for the first time on a dirt track in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Leroidesanimaux ran back to his workout and zipped through the stretch to score by 2 ¾ lengths and join his connections in the winner’s circle.
Two weeks later, Animal Kingdom made a valiant effort to catch victorious Shackleford in the Preakness, falling a half-length short after trailing the field early. Following a troubled sixth in the Belmont Stakes, it was discovered that he had suffered a fracture in his left hind leg that required surgery and knocked him out of action for the rest of the year.