Here we go again

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Derby winner Animal Kingdom heads for home

The horse is on the truck. That’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom riding along in Keith Cooper’s tractor trailer headed north and east from from Kentucky to Maryland today. At last report he was zooming past Keeneland at about 6:40 Tuesday morning.


Ready to do this again? Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom arrives in Fair Hill Tuesday afternoon to begin prepping for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. He brings expectations, hype, promise – a chance to make history.

We’ll try to go along for the ride, the way we did with Toby’s Corner. We’ll watch him train, meet his people and let you know what it’s like to get ready for Pimlico. Of course, we’ll probably have company. There’s no way I’ll be the only one watching Animal Kingdom train in the morning – my phone has already taken calls from two newspapers. And the Baltimore television stations are headed north to Cecil County, which normally only happens when there’s a major crime spree or natural disaster.

Over the weekend, someone told me I picked the wrong horse to follow in the barn for a pre-Derby journal. Not my fault. Animal Kingdom has never been to Fair Hill – heading south with much of the Graham Motion stable to Florida and then on to Kentucky. Toby’s Corner, like me, stayed in Fair Hill all winter – coping with snow, ice, cold while developing into a Derby contender with a Wood Memorial victory. I followed him to the Derby, almost. Dianne Cotter’s homebred son of Bellamy Road went to the sidelines with an injury, but not before we got to know him, the people in the barn, the trials of working with horses.

And the ups and downs of horse racing. Four days out, Motion and his team lost a Derby horse. Then they won the Derby. Crazy, right?

Well, here we go again.

Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom will leave Kentucky on Keith Cooper’s tractor-trailer at 5:30-ish Tuesday morning with George the lead pony and several others. They’ll make the turn into Fair Hill Training Center 11 or so hours later.

I won’t be there. My 10-year-old son Nolan has a Little League game and Keith has thus far refused to drive by the field on the way (but I’m working on him) so will have to wait until Wednesday to meet the Derby horse.

Cooper stopped by the office at 9 Monday morning, talking sandwiches (see below), whether Motion will get a call from David Letterman and Twitter feeds. A half-hour later, Cooper rolled past with a blast from his airhorn – bound for Kentucky after a stop at the tire place and the truck wash (can’t let a Derby winner ride in a dirty truck).

Fair Hill Derby Fever
The Go Toby Go banners are down, but the state Department of Natural Resources is getting in on the act with a message for Animal Kingdom on the sign outside the entrance. Last week, the words read Good Luck. Now they say Welcome Home. Cool.

The local deli wants to create an Animal Kingdom sandwich (Keith Cooper’s suggestion) and we’re working on it. Feel free to send suggestions.

The Derby win made the front page of the county’s Cecil Whig, perhaps the world’s smallest daily newspaper.


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