Trainer Graham Motion developed a plan that almost landed his charge Animal Kingdom an historic victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile in the colt's first start in 259 days. Team Valor International CEO Barry Irwin termed the second-place finish to Horse of the Year candidate Wise Dan "a great feat of horsemanship."
Now Motion has come up with his plan for Animal Kingdom's assault on the Group 1, $10-million World Cup in Dubai.
The Fair Hill-based conditioner, after weighing all of the options, has decided it makes the most sense to prep the Kentucky Derby winner on February 9 in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap going nine furlongs.
"I like the timing, the spacing and the surface," Motion explained.
Animal Kingdom will have a nice little respite for now, then be cranked up again to run 1 1/8 miles on February 9 in the $300,000 contest. The champion son of Leroidesanimaux will then have 50 days between that grass race and the March 30 renewal of the 10-furlong Dubai World Cup over Meydan's synthetic Tapeta surface.
"I like racing him on grass again, because it is kinder on horses, and he won over the Gulfstream Park course this year and showed a liking for it," Motion said. "He also raced on the grass a year earlier at three. So he should feel at home.
"As for getting used to the track in Dubai, it is made of Tapeta and while it may not be exactly the same as our course at home or the one as Presque Isle, it should be close enough, so that I am not worried about how he will handle it."
Animal Kingdom scored in a Gulfstream allowance race on February 18 in what was intended to be his prep for the 2012 Dubai World Cup, but he went to the sidelines with an injury.
At Motion's suggestion, he returned from a 259-day layoff in the Breeders' Cup Mile on November 3 and turned in a remarkable effort against world class milers. Hindered by traffic for much of the stretch, he made an emphatic rally, shading :23 seconds in the final quarter, to get up for second in the final strides.