It is an American swansong today but the approach is confused as owner differs from trainer on the Kentucky Derby winner going all out in preparation for UAE trip.
Animal Kingdom's tilt towards Dubai World Cup than Gulfstream
With the $US10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup on the horizon for Animal Kingdom next month, the syndicate owner Barry Irwin can be forgiven for not caring a jot whether his 2011 Kentucky Derby winner prevails in the $300,000 Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap today.
Animal Kingdom is the favourite to win the world's most valuable race, but today he lines up against five others for his difficult seasonal bow at the Florida racetrack with his target firmly in focus.
The strapping five-year-old faces Point Of Entry, the Breeders' Cup Turf runner-up, and Unbridled Command, the new kid on the block who scooped the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby in November.
All three are entered for races on Dubai World Cup night, and although today's race is just a warm-up for their date in Dubai, the trainer Graham Motion would like to see Animal Kingdom augment his $2.3m prize-money haul.
"Barry said that he doesn't mind if we don't win because the World Cup is so important and this is what we have planned for so long," Motion told The National from his Maryland base. "He is concerned that if Animal Kingdom overdoes it on Saturday he won't perform in Dubai.
"My own feeling is that the spacing between the two races is perfect and if he does have a hard race he has enough time to get over it and still be at his best for Dubai."
Motion has enlisted the services of Joel Rosario, the jockey from the Dominican Republic who replaces Ramon Dominguez, who was slated for the ride.
The Venezuelan jockey was released from hospital on Wednesday after fracturing his skull last month in a fall.
It will be the first time Animal Kingdom has raced since his burst of speed proved just short of what was required to bring down Wise Dan, the subsequent American horse of the year, in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita in November.
It was Animal Kingdom's first run since he won a Conditions race at Gulfstream one year ago in preparation for last season's Dubai World Cup, after which he suffered a setback.
Today's race will also prove to be Animal Kingdom's final race in America; after his trip to Dubai he will either race at Royal Ascot or be retired to stud in Australia.
Gulfstream is known as a track that favours speed horses and although Motion envisages circumstances in which his hold-up horse can be beaten he was bristling with confidence ahead of his intended trip from his Fair Hill Stables to Florida yesterday.
"If he is in the position he was in at the Breeders' Cup, and I believe that he is, then it is a great opportunity for him," Motion said.
"The only caveat I would say is that to get the Breeders' Cup we had to do a tremendous amount to get there.
"I have back-pedaled a bit and we gave him a break after that run. I have been easier on him in the mornings when compared to the Breeders' Cup.
"It is all about gut instinct really. I do have a fairly good handle on the horse, having brought him back from lay-offs twice.
"He is certainly close enough to his peak to handle what is in store for him."
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