Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom is to make his return to racing in the Feb. 25 Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT).
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 (UAE-I) five weeks later on the synthetic course at Meydan Racecourse. He has not raced since the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) last June when he came out of the race with a hairline fracture of his left hock and underwent surgery.
Animal Kingdom has posted six workouts since Dec. 24, including a bullet five-furlong move in :59 3/5 Feb. 1 on the turf course at Palm Meadows Training Center.
“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.”
Animal Kingdom also began his 3-year-old season on turf, finishing second in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park. He followed with a victory in the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) on Turfway Park's Polytrack.
“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.”