Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is headed for the Tampa Bay Stakes. Plans are for Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom to make his 2012 debut in the February 25 Tampa Bay Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. There had been rumors that Animal Kingdom would make his first start in the Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 11.
The 4-year-old Team Valor International homebred will use the 1 1/16-mile turf race as a prep for the $10-million Dubai World Cup. The Dubai World Cup will take place five weeks later at Meydan Racecourse. Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom has not raced since June, 2011 in the Belmont Stakes in New York. The Kentucky Derby winner came out of the race with a hairline fracture of his left hock and had to have surgery. He spent the last five months of 2011 successfully recovering from his surgery.
Animal Kingdom has posted six workouts since December 24. Some were in Maryland and recently, he has trained in Florida. His fastest workout so far was today, February 1. He did five-furlongs in :59 3/5 on the turf course at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.
“The Tampa Bay will allow him enough works to be fit enough to start back,” trainer Graham Motion said. “Any of these earlier races would have been pushing it. We want to have him fit for his first race so it doesn’t take too much out of him for the race that we’re really pointing for.”
During his Kentucky Derby prep last year, Animal Kingdom started off on the turf, finishing second in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Animal Kingdom followed with a victory in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes on Turfway Park’s Polytrack. He took a different rounte tobe a Kentucky Derby horse.
“I think a turf race will be easier on him coming back,” Motion said. “It’s a little kinder than the dirt. If the race in Dubai was on dirt, it would probably be a different story.”
The 2011 Eclipse Award winning champion three-year-old male had two wins and two seconds in five starts last year. During his campaign for the Kentucky Derby last year, Animal Kingdom started off on the turf, finishing second in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Animal Kingdom followed with a victory in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes on Turfway Park’s Polytrack. He also finished second in the Preakness Stakes.
2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom is owned and has been campaigned by Team Valor International. Team Valor President Barry Irwin said, “This horse is just on ‘go.’ He is relishing his work, he’s happy to be out there, and he just loves to run. And he doesn’t seem to be getting that tired.”