Team Valor International's Animal Kingdom galloped 1 1/2 miles
under exercise rider David Nava Thursday morning at Santa Anita in preparation
for his scheduled start in the Mile off an eight-month
"He looked terrific. I couldn't be happier how he's doing," said trainer Graham Motion, who arrived in Southern California on Wednesday.
Animal Kingdom, who captured the 2011 Kentucky Derby, hasn't run since winning a turf allowance at Gulfstream Park on February 18.
"The biggest thing for me is to have him back. Yes, it's great to be running in the Breeders' Cup, but I'm just excited to have him back racing," said Motion, whose Derby winner was sidelined with a pelvis fracture. "It's frustrating to have a horse of this caliber stuck in the barn."
Animal Kingdom, who injured his left hind leg after a sixth-place finish in the 2011 Belmont, had come off an eight-month layoff to win the Gulfstream allowance.
"He's the best horse that I've ever trained. I'd like him to have a chance to show his Derby wasn't a fluke, because I know how talented he is," Motion said.
Animal Kingdom has won on dirt, synthetic and grass.
"I believe this horse's best surface is the grass. To win the Derby on the dirt is a credit to him," Motion said.
Motion said he doesn't feel pressure to win the Mile, which has attracted a deep field that includes morning-line favorite Wise Dan, also a winner on dirt, synthetic and grass, and Excelebration, a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe.
"I'm excited to have him back. To win the Mile would be extraordinary. I haven't even allowed myself to think about it," Motion said. "I just want to see him run a good race and be competitive with these horses."
Morton Fink's Wise Dan made his first trip to the Santa Anita turf Thursday morning, jogging one
time around accompanied by a pony and then galloping easily once around under
exercise rider Damien Rock.
"I am glad that's over," said Rock, who accompanied Wise Dan on the flight from Kentucky on Wednesday. "He is so strong that I don't want to let him get away from me so close to the race. I am happy that it went well."
Trainer Charles Lopresti, who calls Wise Dan "the horse of a lifetime," liked what he saw from the time Wise Dan arrived Wednesday afternoon to this morning's activity.
"He came in here yesterday very confident and cleaned out the feed tub last night," Lopresti said. "Damien said he liked the ground out there and that's all he really needs. I just wanted to get him out there to jog and gallop a little just to see it."
As Wise Dan came off the track, Lopresti talked glowingly of the earner of $2,461,638 with 12 victories in 19 starts and a 4-for-5 mark on grass at the mile distance.
"He is better now than he was before the (Grade 1) Shadwell (Turf Mile on October 6 at Keeneland), but I say that after every race," Lopresti said. "He's a good one and hopefully he will prove it Saturday. He will have to run the race of his life to win, but then whoever wins will have to, too."
The trainer, who saddled Turallure to a runner-up finish in last year's Mile at Churchill Downs, has plenty of respect for the rivals Wise Dan will face Saturday.
"The Europeans have a very good horse in Excelebration who has been beaten only by Frankel and they have a very nice filly in Moonlight Cloud," Lopresti said. "And there are a couple of nice American horses that people are overlooking such as Obviously, who is very fast."
Wise Dan was scheduled to school in the paddock with horses in Thursday afternoon's 6TH race.
"We'll see how the schooling goes and then tomorrow I may just jog him once around on the dirt track," Lopresti said.
Trainer Mike Mitchell is an early bird, liking to get his business done well before most folks even make it out of bed. Thursday morning at Santa Anita, he had his two Breeders' Cup horses, including Obviously who is scheduled to run in the Mile, trained up, cooled out and ready to go on with it well before the sun came up.
Obviously, an Irish-bred gelding, jogged around the track as part of his
final preparations for the Mile. The four-year-old will be handled by Santa Anita's
current leading rider, Joe Talamo.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he (Obviously) will be on the lead in the Mile and they'll have to come catch him," Mitchell said. "Talamo is the reason that's so, and it's funny how it got that way.
"When we bought this horse, it was because we thought he was a sprinter. We tried him several times sprinting and he always seemed to manage to find some trouble. So I said let's try him long to see if we can get him out of trouble."
In three grass races at a mile since, Obviously has been a winner each time, going to the front and never looking back.
"That first time on the grass, I never said anything to Joe about how to ride him," Mitchell recalled. "I don't like to give (my riders) instructions anyway and I never said anything to Joe. So here he goes and he opens up four or five in front on the backside and I'm really upset. 'What the heck is he doing?' I'm thinking. But then the horse just kept on going. And he's done it twice more. That's the way he wants to run and Joe discovered it. And we're all sure glad he did."
Poor people from the South American jungle will be cheering for Jeranimo in the Mile.
Owner B.J. Wright sends winnings earned by the six-year-old horse to Peru to help indigenous people along the Amazon River.
"I've supported a charitable foundation, House of the Children, with the stable winnings," Wright said. "The money is used for the Rainforest Flow project, which protects rain forests and builds water supply systems from streams to villages. We've done three villages at a cost of $400,000 each."
Wright, a 74-year-old Pasadena, California, resident who owns a water filtration company, said he believed the good karma created by his generosity has helped Jeranimo become a Grade 1-winning millionaire.
Trainer Mike Pender was pleased with the one-mile gallop on the Santa Anita turf Thursday by Jeranimo under exercise rider Jesus Medillin.
"All systems are go," Pender said. "He shipped over yesterday (from Hollywood Park) and cleaned up his tub. He will school in the first race tomorrow."
Pender first met Wright as a quarterback on a youth football team that Wright coached in Glendale, California.
After his delayed arrival in Southern California on
Wednesday, trainer Shug McGaughey was on hand to supervise the morning activity
for Point of Entry at Santa Anita Park Thursday. The morning-line favorite for
Saturday's Turf galloped 1 1/2 miles under Jennifer Patterson.
Phipps Stable's Point of Entry is riding a five-racing winning streak into the Turf, including victories in an allowance race and Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland before reeling off triumphs in the Grade 1 Man o' War, Grade 1 Sword Dancer and Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
"It's just the maturity factor -- his being such a big horse and letting it all came together. When I got him to Keeneland, he turned it around," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "The eye-opener was that stakes race at Keeneland. After he won that race at Keeneland, I knew what I wanted to do."
His most recent triumph on soft turf showed his trainer an ability to overcome adversity.
"He handled it fine, but I don't think it was his best race. I think he likes it like he's going to get it here on Saturday -- firm. Not only was the turf soft but it was a funny-run race," McGaughey said. "He showed me a lot that day."
McGaughey has trained several champions, including undefeated 1988 Distaff (now named Ladies' Classic) winner Personal Ensign and 1989 Belmont Stakes winner Easy Goer, but Point of Entry has provided him with a new experience.
"He's new to me, because I never had a horse as good as him that wants to run long on the grass," McGaughey said. "I never won the Man o' War, I never won the Sword Dancer, I never won the Turf Classic, so he opened up a lot of doors for me that's been fun to participate in. He's been fun."
Turf rival Slim Shadey was put through a routine 1 1/2-mile gallop that elicited praise from trainer Simon Callaghan for its form and energy.
The four-year-old son of 2001 Mile winner Val Royal is the second Breeders' Cup starter for English-born but now Southern California-based trainer Callaghan. He saddled Dubawi Heights in the 2011 Filly & Mare Turf and she set the fractions for the first six furlongs before fading to sixth.
Has the second time through the Breeders' Cup experience been more
comfortable for Callaghan than the first?
"I think so," Callaghan said. "Particularly with it being in our local home track, it's easier."
A change in racing tactics, putting Slim Shadey on the lead for the first time in five races dating back to February, resulted in a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 2, 1 1/4-mile John Henry Turf Championship on September 30 at Santa Anita. Should something similar be expected for the 1 1/2-mile Turf?
"He'll be close to the lead, but he doesn't necessarily have to be on it," Callaghan said. "If he finds himself on the lead it would be all right, but Little Mike (wire-to-wire winner of the Grade 1 Arlington Million) will probably be the one in front.
"(The Turf field) is very solid. The European filly (Shareta) is very good and Point of Entry is possibly the best route turf horse that's been around in several years."
Trainer Todd Pletcher expressed some concerns about the pace of the Turf for Turbo Compressor, who typically runs at the front of the pack.
"I don't really like the way the dynamics of the race are shaping up for a horse that likes to be on the lead," Pletcher said after supervising a routine gallop Thursday morning. "With Slim Shadey and Little Mike in there it's a tough scenario. It depends on the break, too."
The son of Halo's Image earned an early automatic berth in the Turf by winning the Grade 1 United Nations on July 7, but he took a step backward when finishing a distant ninth in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga at the Turf distance of 1 1/2 miles.
"After the United Nations and the Colonial Turf Cup (both wins), we just figured we had to forgive him for not liking the turf course that day (Sword Dancer)," Pletcher said. "Once he gave it up, the jock (Joe Bravo) didn't persevere with him."
Turbo Compressor is one of two Pletcher runners to have come out here early to get ready for a Cup assignment.
"It was the same idea as Love and Pride (in the Ladies' Classic)," Pletcher said. "He shipped out early and got a race over the surface here in hopes of creating a little bit of an advantage for him by doing that."
The P & G Stable and Off the Hook LLC ridgling responded with a second-place finish in the John Henry Turf behind Slim Shadey.
Stablemate In Lingerie has been an outstanding performer on dirt and artificial surfaces, but the three-year-old daughter of Empire Maker faces a new challenge in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
"You usually don't go to the Breeders' Cup trying a new surface for the first time, but she's a filly that's undefeated on the synthetic (3-for-3)," said Pletcher, who oversaw a maintenance gallop Thursday morning at Santa Anita. "So we thought it made some sense to at least try (turf), especially since she worked very well over the surface twice."
Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Gary Barber, and Debmar Stables, In Lingerie won the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland in her last start. No winner of the Filly & Mare Turf has had that race as a final prep, but Pletcher made his plan, and the owners concurred.
"We have always been leaning toward this since the Spinster," Pletcher said. "We needed everything to go right once she got here and it has. She's settled in here real well and she's had those two good breezes over the turf."