Weekend Update: Animal Kingdom to Alajmal

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Happy Easter. Whether you’ve been hunting eggs and chasing bunnies, you no doubt paid attention to the racing hoopla this weekend. It was frenetic, fantastic, a little frantic.

Simply Dazzling in Dubai

Animal Kingdom is owned by Team Valor International and Arrowfield Stud, and he’s trained by Graham Motion, but he belongs to the world. The 5-year-old chestnut ruled the world’s richest horse race Saturday, taking the $10 million Dubai World Cup in a romp.

The victory ended what had been a rough night for the Americans and halted winless streak in the rich race since it moved to the Tapeta track at Meydan Race Course in 2010. The 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom was in the race throughout. He broke sharply, raced wide around the first turn, drafted behind fellow American Royal Delta down the long backstretch and took over in the final 3 furlongs – winning by 2 lengths over Red Cadeaux with Planteur third.

Based at Florida’s Palm Meadows Training Center this winter, Animal Kingdom spent most of last year at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. Second to eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year, Animal Kingdom heads to the next step of his world tour, a potential start at England’s Royal Ascot meeting in June.

Thisishorseracing.com talked to Motion twice during World Cup Week, once from Dubai, and the trainer put it all in perspective when asked about the end of the horse’s racing career.

“A horse you’ve got an attachment with makes it different,” he said. “It’s not the horse’s personality, and he has a very-easy-to-get-attached-to personality. It’s just the fact of what he’s done for you. It would be like having a child that played professional sports or something. They take you to tremendous places and heights. For that reason you feel indebted to him.”

After Saturday, the debt is not getting any smaller.

We’ll catch up to Motion (who was on his way home Monday morning) for a follow-up this week.

Watch the race here.


Orb puts McGaughey on Derby road

Saturday’s Florida Derby turned into a showcase for budding 3-year-old star Orb, who rallied from fifth in a field of 10 to win the $1 million race by 2 ¾ lengths over favorite Itsmyluckyday and Merit Man.

Racing for Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable, the son of Malibu Moon has blossomed with four consecutive victories, a streak that began in late November (after three straight losses to start his career). Last week, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey told us about the horse’s progression.

“He’s made great strides since the Fountain of Youth, physically, he’s a lot stronger horse, he’s coming into his coat, he had a great work up there Monday, schooled good yesterday. It’s up to him, now,” McGaughey said. “We always kind of liked him, he was always a horse, the further he went, the better he got. I thought once we got him going a distance of ground, it would probably help.”

McGaughey hasn’t run a horse in the Kentucky Derby since 2002, but looks like he’ll be back this year.

We’ll follow up with Orb this week, too.

Watch the race here. (See links in upper left corner)


Revolutionary makes his Derby case

Shortly after Orb’s win, WinStar Farm’s Revolutionary kept himself in the Kentucky Derby discussion by winning the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, the son of War Pass held off My Lute by a neck with Departing three lenghts back in third in a 14-horse field.

So that’s two (at least) to think about for the Kentucky Derby – Orb and Revolutionary. The rest will follow. Thirty-three days to go.

Watch the race here. (See links in upper left corner)


Alajmal keeps it rolling, jumping

We did three main preview features last week – Dubai World Cup, Florida Derby and Carolina Cup Steeplechase. All three of our subjects won, with rising jump star Alajmal completing the trifecta with a score in the $50,000 Cup at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C.

Owned by Greg Hawkins and trained by Hall of Famer Janet Elliot, the 5-year-old handled Fog Island and five others in the $50,000 novice hurdle stakes with Ross Geraghty aboard. Alajmal, a son of Claiborne Farm stallion First Samurai, continued a rapid steeplechase progression. He broke his maiden at Penn National in late June, won at Saratoga, flashed his real quality with a third vs. open company in the Colonial Cup in November. Elliot bought the Kentucky-bred (Shadwell Farm) as a 2-year-old at the Tattersalls Sale in England.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who typically downplayed the liveliness of his barn during a preseason interview, won two at Camden. Bill Pape’s Powerofone (a former $300,000 yearling by A.P. Indy) graduated the maiden ranks while veteran Nationbuilder (a son of Came Home) continued a successful conversion to timber. Darren Nagle rode both winners. Also among the Camden winners were Kentucky owners/breeders John and Linda Griggs, whose first-time starter GG Gal (Whywhywhy) won a filly/mare maiden for trainer Dave Washer. Training flat races at Camden went to Artic Cry and The Grey Express.

If you’re keeping score with the ST handicappers at home, Joe wound up with three winners at Camden – Artic Cry, Nationbuilder and Alajmal – while Sean (Alajmal) had one and Tom (Nationbuilder and Alajmal) had two. Totals after 12 races: Joe leads with five; Sean and Tom have three each.

See NSA results here.

See Tod Marks photos here.