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May 13, 2011

Compare and contrast Animal Kingdom races

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Animal Kingdom is proving to be a most consistent thoroughbred. The three-year-old colt has posted consecutive 2 3/4- length victories in the Kentucky Derby and Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes.

In both races the Graham Motion-trained horse came from well off the pace to run down the leaders and win. In the Spiral Stakes he came from last in an 11 horse field while in the Run for the Roses he was no worst than 12th in the 19 horse field.

"Once he won the Spiral, Barry (owner Barry Irwin) and I talked about it," Motion said about not running between the Spiral and Derby), "and I just said, if we are going to go to the Derby with what I felt was a very light horse, I just couldn't see putting him through another race. We knew he was a very good horse. And we took the conservative route and that's how it worked out and I'm glad we did it and hopefully that will help us two weeks from now."

Alan Garcia had the mount on Animal Kingdom in the Turfway Park race and John Velazquez picked up the Derby ride after Robby Albarado was injured three days before the Run for the Roses.

"Guess it was meant to be. A lot of things happen for a reason," Velazquez said after winning the Kentucky Derby. "People came to me and said, three years, back to back, and I guess it was meant to be for you no matter what. It had to happen the way it happened today. And you know, it's a little strange because one of our own jockeys got hurt and that's how I picked up the mount."

Animal Kingdom was the 3-1 second choice in the Spiral Stakes behind 8-5 favorite Positive Response. In the Kentucky Derby, the colt was 20-1, one of nine starters who were sent off between 20-1 and 39-1.

Turfway Park has a synthetic track while Churchill Downs still has a natural dirt main oval. The 137th Kentucky Derby was conducted over a fast track following a brief rain shower earlier in the afternoon.

"We haven't had him on the dirt but it?s something Barry and I will talk about," Motion noted after winning the Spiral Stakes. "I don't think distance is a problem."

Motion proved to be correct about Animal Kingdom not having a problem going 1 1/4-miles. He covered the Derby distance in 2:02.04, a mid-range time since Secretariat went 1:59.40. The colt completed the 1 1/8-mile Spiral in a slow 1:52.33 on the artificial surface.

In the Turfway Park race Animal Kingdom broke from post four and in the Derby he started from post 16 in the auxiliary gate.

"That's great. I couldn't be happier with it," Motion said at the Kentucky Derby post position draw three days before the race. "I would much rather be on the outside than stuck down on the rail. I'm very happy with it."

Going into the Spiral Stakes and coming out of the Kentucky Derby, Animal Kingdom is still a lightly raced horse. He only has five lifetime starts, but is now the top rated three-year-old in the country.

"I have a lot of confidence in this horse," Motion said. "He's the whole package, I guess, to use a term that's probably overused. He's got a tremendous disposition and is just a really brilliant horse."

The Preakness Stakes will have no more than 14 horses. Post position will not be a factor like it was in the Run for the Roses. Shackleford will probably set the pace in the Preakness, just as he did in the Derby. Animal Kingdom should have an excellent chance to win the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown.

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