Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will make his seasonal debut in a 11⁄16-mile allowance race on the turf at Gulfstream Park on Saturday instead of heading to the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 25 as originally planned, trainer Graham Motion said Wednesday.
The $60,000 turf allowance is the fifth race on Saturday's 11-race program and is open to non-winners of three races other than maiden, claiming or starter. Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Eclipse Award winner as champion 3-year-old male, has raced on the Gulfstream turf before, finishing second in an allowance race last March.
"My plan had always been to run him next weekend but when they (Gulfstream) came up with this idea of possibly putting on a race for him, I went along with it for this weekend," Motion said when reached by phone Wednesday. "A couple of horses ended up scratching from the race (last weekend) because of all the rain so they actually brought the race back again for this weekend."
Animal Kingdom has not raced since his sixth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes last June as he emerged from the effort with a fracture in his left hock. The chestnut son of Leroidesanimaux is being pointed for a start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31 and the extra week he gains now is something Motion believes will help in the colt's preparations.
"The problem with next week at Tampa is ... if we don't get to run next week because of the weather or something, I don't have a backup plan to get to Dubai," Motion said. "So we were really on a tight schedule with that. With him running this weekend, six weeks, I think, is an optimum time to give him between. I'm dealing with a horse who hasn't run since June so obviously his first race back is going to take quite a lot out of him, whatever it is."