Sunday, September 4, 2011

Animal Kingdom looking fresh in preparation for Preakness

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Some Kentucky Derby winners emerge from the rigorous 1¼-mile Run for the Roses with minimal wear and tear. Others reflect a significant drop in energy level and appetite and are the same horse in name only.

  • Fresh off his Kentucky Derby win, Animal Kingdom begins his preparation for the Preakness.

    By Luke Sharrett, AFP/Getty Images

    Fresh off his Kentucky Derby win, Animal Kingdom begins his preparation for the Preakness.

By Luke Sharrett, AFP/Getty Images

Fresh off his Kentucky Derby win, Animal Kingdom begins his preparation for the Preakness.

Fortunately for trainer Graham Motion, he believes he will bring a robust performer with a can-do attitude when he sends newly-crowned Kentucky Derby champion Animal Kingdom into next Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

"I'm impressed with how he handled everything," Motion said during a conference call with news reporters Thursday.

"His weight is good. He's making it easy for me. I couldn't be happier."

Animal Kingdom jogged each of the last two days at his home base, Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

Although his workload is expected to increase this weekend, no formal workout is planned, another sign he is sharp.

"I think it's unlikely," Motion said. "I wouldn't normally work a horse who has two weeks between races. If he's good enough, he'll handle it.

"There is nothing I can do between now and then to make him any more competitive."

The trainer has a fresh horse entering the Preakness. The son of grass specialist Leroisdesanimeaux made three lifetime starts on synthetic surfaces and one on grass before becoming the first to win the Derby in his dirt debut with a convincing a 2¾-length victory against Nehro.

His four career starts are the fewest for a Derby winner since Exterminator in 1918. He enjoyed a six-week layoff between his Spiral Stakes victory at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., and the opening leg of the Triple Crown.

Motion does not plan to ship Animal Kingdom to Pimlico until he completes his morning exercise at Fair Hill next Friday. It would be an unusually late arrival for a Derby champion.

"I think it's just a relaxing atmosphere for him (at Fair Hill)," he said, "and it kind of keeps him out of the craziness for a bit."

Peter Pan Stakes: Adios Charlie, Joe Vann and Prime Cut look to be the top contenders in a field of 11 for Saturday's Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes as a prelude to the June 11 Belmont Stakes.

Adios Charlie gained his first career victory by 6¾ lengths on March 30 at Florida's Gulfstream Park and followed with a win in the Grade 2 Jerome at Aqueduct in New York on April 23.

Lazaro Cruz, assistant to trainer Stanley Hough, is confident Adios Charlie will maintain his form for the 11/8-mile Peter Pan.

"He ran huge in the Jerome, and it didn't seem to take much out of him," Cruz said.

Joe Vann, owner of a three-race winning streak whose most recent success came in the Illinois Derby, also is doing beautifully. But trainer Todd Pletcher is still working to get a grasp on his abilities after he went winless in four starts at age 2 and struggled home seventh in his 3-year-old debut before heating up.

"This will give us an idea of where he fits in the big picture," he said.

NBC deal: The New York Racing Association and NBC Sports Group announced a partnership to broadcast live racing from Saratoga Race Course over seven weekends from July 23 until Sept. 3, highlighted by the Travers on Aug. 27.

NBC will carry the Coaching Club American Oaks (July 23), the Alabama (Aug. 20) and the Travers. The remaining races will air on Versus.

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