Animal Kingdom: The coach comes to visit

- -


Derby winner has first gallop since big win

ST is chronicling the life of Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who is training for the May 21 Preakness at Fair Hill Training Center. The Team Valor horse arrived at Fair Hill, our home base, Tuesday after the Derby and we’ll keep up with him as he gets ready for the next step and continues on the trail.


Friday, May 13

Graham Motion walked out of the barn to the parking lot, extended his right hand and asked a question.

“What I want to know is how do you get any sleep during the playoffs?”

The man at the other end of the handshake – Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid – laughed and knew exactly what Motion meant. Whether you train the Kentucky Derby winner or try to win the Super Bowl, it’s not easy.

“Graham has been here since 5 o’clock this morning so I can relate,” Reid said. “He’s got long days like we do and the pressure involved will wear on you. Graham seems like a very cool guy and he’s got things under control, very organized, it’s impressive.”

Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Eagles scout Brett Veach made the trip to Fair Hill just to see Animal Kingdom. Veach, a former wide receiver at the nearby University of Delaware, had been to the training center to see 2006 Derby winner Barbaro train, and encouraged Reid to get a glimpse. Veach made a phone call to Sally Goswell at Fair Hill and organized the trip. The football guys liked what they saw.

“I really know nothing about (racing) but Marty and Brett know so we got a chance to come down,” said Reid. “He’s an impressive athlete, you can see that.”

Reid took a tour of Team Valor’s barn, checked out some of the therapy equipment (vibrating stall and cold saltwater spa) and watched training from the rail alongside Motion. While watching Breeders’ Cup winner Shared Account gallop 1 1/2 miles, Reid asked about the technique used by exercise riders in holding horses and shook his head.

“I don’t know how they do it,” he said. “It’s something to see it up this close.”

Worth Repeating
“I only wear my Eagles hat out to dinner.”
– Blacksmith (and Baltimore Ravens fan) Mark Pino, who changed from a Ravens cap to a Phillies cap once he heard Reid was in the barn

“You want me to do a little more with him?”
– Trainer Graham Motion to a radio reporter who asked ‘Is that all we’re going to see from him today?’

“Yeah, but his bite.”
– Eagles coach Andy Reid when told that Motion’s athletes can’t argue with him

To The Track, Again
Animal Kingdom went to Fair Hill’s dirt track Wednesday, jogged a half-mile or so to the backside, stood in while checking out the scenery – then galloped a mile (his first proper exercise since the Derby). Slowly, steadily, rhythmically, he did his work – the only potential glitch came when he ducked in toward the rail while passing the clockers’ stand in the stretch. Excuse the sidestep given the circumstances: Today was the horse’s first gallop on the track, there were 40-odd people (many with cameras clicking) lining the outside rail and the porch of the clockers’ stand was full of visitors as well. Otherwise, the gallop was just that – a horse galloping on the track. Fair Hill’s other trainers have cleared their schedules to allow Animal Kingdom an empty track on which to train just after the 8:30 harrowing break each morning. He walked back to the barn, a few minutes ahead of a lone deer who scampered across the horsepath before cooling out under a green and red Team Valor cooler, sipping water, walking slowly, watching all the action and waiting his chance to go out for a bite of grass.


PHOTO: Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid (right), offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg (left) and scout Brett Veach talk horses with trainer Graham Motion. (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire).


Click here for previous Journal Entries.

Follow ST Publishing on Twitter.