Animal Kingdom eyeing Gulfstream Turf Handicap

Kentucky Derby and Eclipse Award winner Animal Kingdom

12 hours after winning the 2011 3-year-old champion Eclipse Award, Animal Kingdom turned in his  first workout since arriving in south Florida going a very easy half-mile in 53:44 seconds over the Palm Meadows turf course Tuesday morning.

The dogs (meaning  the barriers put on the track during workouts to keep horses off the rail) were  out more than 100 feet on the inner course, according to the official track  clocker.

“It was a very easy work,” trainer Graham Motion said by phone from California  shortly before boarding a plane home to Maryland. “We also worked Toby’s Corner  today on the dirt. Originally, I thought about working Animal Kingdom on the  dirt, but I’m glad we decided to put him on the grass, since the main track was  on the deep side down there today.”  Graham Motion was in California attending the 41st Annual Eclipse Awards.

Motion said the fact Animal Kingdom worked on the turf is a clear indication of his intentions when it comes to the newly crowned champ’s 2012 debut. Motion’s first major goal for Animal Kingdom this year is the Dubai World Cup on March 24.

“I’m about 90 percent certain his first start will be on the grass,” Motion said. “Barring anything unusual, that is our intention. I will nominate him for the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 11, and it all depends upon whether I think he’s ready to come back at that point. We’ve got about a three-week window to find a race for him beginning that weekend.”

Last September regarding the Eclipse Awards, Graham Motion said this about Animal Kingdom – “Ultimately, he won the classic race that everyone wants to win in what was his first start on the dirt… He came back in his second start ever on dirt and was just beaten in the Preakness, and then we all know what happened in the Belmont.”

Animal Kingdom is the first Derby winner to take the 1 1⁄4-mile classic in his first start on dirt and is the first since Needles in 1956 to win the race off a  six-week layoff.   He also is the first champion for his sire, Leroidesanimaux (Brazil) and the first champion and first classic winner for trainer H. Graham Motion, who previously was best known for scoring upset victories in the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf with Better Talk Now and Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf with Shared Account.