x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Animal Kingdom aimed at Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot

Graham Motion gives jockey John Velazquez the mount despite Joel Rosario's recent Kentucky Derby as well as riding Animal Kingdom to victory at the Dubai World Cup, writes Geoffrey Riddle.

Trainer Graham Motion has kept close tabs on Animal Kingdom ever since the horse came to England. Geoffrey Riddle
Trainer Graham Motion has kept close tabs on Animal Kingdom ever since the horse came to England. Geoffrey Riddle

ASCOT, ENGLAND// Graham Motion has given the greatest indication yet that Animal Kingdom will run in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.

The mile contest has always been the main target for Animal Kingdom, but after Motion had walked the course at Ascot on Tuesday, there seemed little chance that the Dubai World Cup winner would remain at 10 furlongs for the Prince Of Wales's Stakes.

Chris Stickles, Ascot's clerk of the course, showed Motion both the straight mile to be used for the Queen Anne on June 19, and the round course on which the Prince Of Wales's Stakes is to be staged a day later.

"The Prince Of Wales's course has a pretty stiff climb all the way up from the mile and is stiffer than I thought, in terms of how far out from where is starts and how it just keeps on climbing," Motion said.

"The Queen Anne has always been our focus. I didn't see anything today that would steer me away from that."

Motion has chosen John Velazquez to ride Animal Kingdom over Joel Rosario, who was in the saddle when the horse won the world's most valuable race at Meydan Racecourse on March 30.

Velazquez has previous experience at Ascot, having partnered Strike The Tiger and Jealous Again to victory in 2009.

Motion was not swayed by Rosario's heroics in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday when the Dominican rider teamed up with Orb to win the Kentucky Derby and will stick with Velazquez, who rode Animal Kingdom to his career-defining victory in the same race at Churchill Downs two years ago.

"I feel very comfortable with my decision," Motion added. "It is no slight on Joel's ability. Jonny has ridden the horse before and knows the course.

"If we run in the Queen Anne Stakes, Joel would be going into the race cold turkey, as it is the first race of the meeting."

Animal Kingdom's preparation has stepped up a gear since Motion last visited England three weeks ago and the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner is undergoing serious work at his Lambourn base under the guidance of Alice Clapham, Motion's head groom.

Animal Kingdom was put through his first proper piece of work during Motion's initial visit, and the trainer is delighted that the gallops at Lambourn are up a steep incline in total contrast to Meydan or in America.

"He trains on an incline every day there," Motion said. "You don't really have a choice over here. It is all part of the process of getting him used to it and the fitness over here is different; it is more a stamina-based fitness."

Sajjhaa and Cityscape, the past two Dubai Duty Free winners, are also entered in the Queen Anne, while Soft Falling Rain, who won the Godolphin Mile on World Cup night, could also take part.

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