Presented with a new setting and a much different assignment, Team Valor International, Arrowfield Stud, and Darley's Animal Kingdom answered impressively May 29 in a key workout over the straightaway at Ascot, where he will conclude his racing career in the June 18 Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I).
Jockey John Velazquez guided this year's Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner and 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) victor over a soft turf course before Team Valor's Barry Irwin, Arrowfield's John Messara, and trainer Graham Motion. Animal Kingdom and a workmate were vanned about an hour east to the Berkshire racecourse from the yard in Lambourn that has been his training base since April 6.
Rain had been steady for three days but let up just before the imposing chestnut son of Leroidesanimaux arrived to tour the paddock and saddling enclosure and drill about 4 1/2 furlongs. He rolled past the overmatched workmate going :13.67, :12 4/5, and :11:94 for the last three furlongs, and galloped out past the wire in :12.39.
"Keep in mind that this is uphill on very soft footing," said Irwin, chief executive officer of Team Valor, which also bred Animal Kingdom. "It was pretty impressive. He finished full of run.
"He stayed behind the other horse, and then went over to the outside rail and out-finished him and was really smoking the last part."
Animal Kingdom jumped a worn-out patch of grass as he crossed the wire. Fortunately, Velazquez saw it coming.
"His ears were moving around as he was looking at it so I knew something was coming and I was ready," Velazquez said in a release.
Velazquez was enthusiastic afterward, telling reporters that Animal Kingdom went "very, very well."
Irwin said, "My takeaway was that the horse looked fresh, which is what we wanted. He came out there with a bit of a belly, since Graham wanted to put some weight back on him that he lost with the race in Dubai and shipping all that way. He's got a little extra and I'm sure this work will bring him down and by the time the race comes he should look perfect."
Irwin is in Europe to watch Team Valor's group II winner First Cornerstone compete in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby, Fr-I) at Chantilly June 2. Irish-bred First Cornerstone, winner of the Galileo E.B.F Futurity Stakes (Ire-II) at the Curragh last August, finished fifth in the May 25 Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) in his first start of the year. A fungal infection had delayed his 3-year-old season.