With just one day remaining, trainer Graham Motion is confident that Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom is ready for the $1 million Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
“I feel very confident with how the horse is doing,” Motion said May 20.
Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom galloped 1 1/2 miles on the synthetic Tapeta surface track at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., May 20. He is scheduled to leave the facility for the 60-mile trip to Pimlico shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday morning.
With a strong run through the stretch at Churchill Downs on May 7 at odds of 20-1, Animal Kingdom’s status changed from an intriguing but lightly raced colt to Derby winner. Motion said the colt looks good to him as they approach the Preakness. He didn’t have an answer to questions about whether Animal Kingdom benefited from a slow early pace in the Derby or if he might be due to “bounce,” a racing term meaning regress, off his winning performance.
“I just couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing,” Motion said. “I can’t dictate the pace and I really can’t predict if he’s going to bounce, but he’s giving me no indication of any of those things happening. I think sometimes when a horse bounces you don’t get any indication. I think it’s pretty hard to boldly say he’s not going to, but he hasn’t given me any indication that he’s not doing as well or better than he was going into the Derby.”
Motion said it was fun to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of Thursday evening’s game between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. The appearance was one of the many perks that have come Motion’s way since Animal Kingdom won the Derby.
“It was pretty cool,” he said. “They had a bit of a rain delay, so actually I did it on the side of the field. It was really neat. It was a cool thing to do. I enjoyed it.
“I don’t think I could have anticipated some of the things I’ve been able to do, some of the people I’ve met, just the whole experience. I don’t think you’d really appreciate it unless you had done it before.”
And Motion said he was very comfortable on the morning before the Preakness.
“I feel more relaxed than I have all week,” he said. “I think I’ve done what I can do and it’s really out of my hands now. The nerve-wracking stuff is just getting the training done and trying to keep things straight. We’re to this point where it’s really out of my hands; we just get into the races and hope everything goes smoothly.”