Animal Kingdom, winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), turned in his final work of 2012 Dec. 28 at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida under the supervision of trainer Graham Motion.
The 4-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux breezed four furlongs on the turf around the "dogs" in :54.15 in company with workmate Big Bad Leroybrown. Regular exercise rider David Nava was in the saddle.
"He actually laid off the lead horse and I told David, 'If you think he's doing enough, stay with him,'" Motion remarked. "He's going to have five more works before he runs, so it's not like we were really looking to crank him up here."
Animal Kingdom, runner-up by 1 1/2 lengths to Wise Dan in the Nov. 3 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), is targeting the Feb. 9 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) for Team Valor International.
"It was really a matter of doing something with him, keeping him happy and fit," Motion said of the Dec. 28 move. "They put the cones out so far you're almost working on the outside rail, so the times here are almost misleading. He's really doing fine."
Animal Kingdom came off an eight-month layoff to deliver that impressive Breeders' Cup effort despite being blocked and steadied on the backstretch and steadied in deep stretch in traffic. That was his second start of 2012, his only other being a Feb. 18 allowance win at Gulfstream Park. Between races he was on the sidelines with an injury to his left hind leg. He also spent time out of training after being sandwiched at the break of the 2011 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) off a second in the Preakness (gr. I). He has finished first or second in eight of his nine career starts.
Since the Breeders' Cup, Motion has sent the chestnut runner through three easy moves on the Palm Meadows lawn. His first work after a freshening came Dec. 11, when he went four furlongs in :52.61. On Dec. 20 he went five furlongs in 1:02.03.
"He'll have three more works before he runs and we'll need to be more serious than this was today," Motion remarked. "From here on out, we'll probably need to step it up, but when you're this far off the race, you're more worried about keeping him healthy and sound."
The Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap will be a prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 31, a race Animal Kingdom missed last year due to injury. Plans call for the colt to then be flown from Dubai to England to be considered for an additional start, possibly at Royal Ascot in June.
Majority interest in the breeding rights of Animal Kingdom, the champion 3-year-old of 2011, were recently acquired by John Messara's Australia-based Arrowfield Stud. The Team Valor homebred out of the Acatenango mare Dalicia will begin his stud career in Australia next September and will likely shuttle to the Northern Hemisphere beginning in 2014. He will be the first Kentucky Derby winner to start his stud career in Australia. The 20 Team Valor International partners who own shares will maintain a significant interest.
Motion said all is going according to plan with Animal Kingdom gearing up for his 2013 campaign.
"He's been very good down here, very sensible, which is nice," the trainer said. "He's settled into a routine and he's been very straightforward since we've been down here. Maybe he's kind of mellowed some, but that's been more of a gradual process than just happening after the Breeders' Cup. He has his moments, though, he can still catch you off guard. He's been very good 95 percent of the time."