LOUISVILLE — After a disappointing move at Keeneland last weekend, Team Valor's Animal Kingdom got the workout his connections were hoping to see Saturday morning.
The winner of the Grade III Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes had his first move over the Churchill Downs track and final serious work before the Kentucky Derby, covering 6 furlongs in company in 1:13.
Animal Kingdom's breeze at Keeneland last Saturday did not go as planned when his workmate Meistersinger struggled over the synthetic surface and didn't give his cohort the necessary target to run at, resulting in a time of 1:02.80 for 5 furlongs.
Things were much more pleasant in the aftermath of the chestnut colt's last big tuneup. With Robby Albarado up, Animal Kingdom broke off about 3 lengths behind his stablemate before eventually drawing off in the lane while clocking splits of :12.40, :24.80, :37.20 and :49.20. His gallop-out time for 7 furlongs was 1:26.40.
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"As screwed up as everything was last week, I thought everything went perfectly today," trainer Graham Motion said. "I feel about 98 percent better than I did a week ago."
Animal Kingdom has not started on the dirt before, so Saturday's work was also crucial in terms of getting a sense of how he would handle the surface on Derby Day.
"I don't see an issue now, not with the way he just worked," Motion said. "The whole thing with having Robby work him is he's a professional, he knows this track, and no one is going to know better than him how a horse is going to handle it. He actually looked for things he could knock about the breeze and he couldn't find one."
Borel gets familiar with his latest Derby hopeful
Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel got acquainted with the horse he hopes will give him a fourth triumph in the first leg of the Triple Crown, working Sunland Derby winner Twice the Appeal 6 furlongs in 1:15.60 early Saturday morning.
Borel — who guided Street Sense to victory in 2007, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010 — picked up the mount on Twice the Appeal on Wednesday. After heading to the track shortly after 6 a.m., Borel and Twice the Appeal registered fractions of :13.40, :26, :38.20, :50.40 and 1:02.80, then galloped out 7 furlongs in 1:29.20.
"I really liked the way he galloped out, I'm very happy," Borel said. "That's what I was looking for. When I stood up on him, he took off again. I had horse under me and he was hitting the ground good. I'm satisfied, very satisfied."
Saturday was a lively morning for Kentucky Derby contenders on the workout tab. Risen Star Stakes winner Mucho Macho Man breezed 5 furlongs in 1:02.40 with Rajiv Maragh up, and Grade I Florida Derby runner-up Shackleford had a bullet move, covering 5 furlongs in :58.80.
"He's as good as I can get him," said Dale Romans, Shackleford's trainer. "It is just a question of whether he is good enough."
Dialed In, winner of the Florida Derby, and Soldat, who captured the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes, both arrived at Churchill Downs from Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida on Saturday afternoon.
Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty to work together Sunday
Trainer Todd Pletcher is counting on his two Derby contenders to bring out the best in each other Sunday. Pletcher said he plans to work juvenile champion Uncle Mo and Gotham Stakes winner Stay Thirsty in company together in their final serious breeze.
"They've worked together a lot. They worked together before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year and that seemed to work out well for one of them (Uncle Mo) any ways," Pletcher said.