Animal Kingdom Debuts Saturday; Pointing Towards Dubai

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05: Animal Kingdom trains during the morning exercise session in preparation for the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will make his four-year-old debut this Saturday in an allowance race at a mile and a sixteenth on the Gulfstream Park turf course. This will be the first start for the Graham Motion trainee since he finished 6th after a trouble filled trip in the Belmont Stakes last June.The Belmont is the only race that Animal Kingdom has finished out of the top two in his seven race career.

The decision to run in an allowance race at Gulfstream represents a slight change in plans for Animal Kingdom. Originally, Motion was preparing for Animal Kingdom to make his 2012 debut in the G3-Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 25th, only to change his mind and opt to run one week earlier at Gulfstream. Motion, speaking to the Daily Racing Form, noted the reasons for the change in plans:

I also believe that having a race six weeks out from the World Cup instead of five is the optimum time for a prep, and that if I waited until next week to run at Tampa and they got a lot of rain and the course was a bog, I had no backup plan and it could have put us in a very awkward situation.

Animal Kingdom will run in the fifth race at Gulfstream on Saturday (Post time: 2:25 Eastern; TV: HRTV) and will face five rivals in an $80k Optional Claiming/N3X event. Below are the entries and post positions for the race.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Tannersville L. Jurado H. Collazo
2 Bell by the Ridge K. Desormeaux M. Maker
3 Monument Hill J. Castellano G. Weaver
4 Midnight Mischief R. Maragh W. Mott
5 Royal Hill P. Lopez C. Rountree
6 Animal Kingdom J. Velazquez G. Motion

Animal Kingdom is sure to be an overwhelming betting favorite in this race, probably in the range of 1/4 or 1/5, at minimum. Not only is the Derby winner the most accomplished horse in the field, but most of his rivals have displayed little in the way of graded stakes talent in their careers. Therefore, the key question for this race is what kind of form will we see from a Derby winner that hasn't raced sine early June?

1-Tannerville is running for an $80,000 tag and is coming into the race after finishing 6th or worse in four of his last five races. He's never finished in the top three in a graded stakes race in his career.

2-Bell by the Ridge finished well back of Little Mike in the Sunshine Millions Turf after struggling with consistency against optional claimers for the better part of the last two years.

3-Monmument Hill comes into the race following back-to-back wins at a mile on the Gulfstream Park turf course. Two races back he defeated a group of $50,000 claimer by three lengths, while in his last start he won against a group of $62k OC/N2X horses.

4-Midnight Mischief tried graded stakes company on multiple occasions over the last three years but has found most of those events a little too tough for him. This is his first start since finishing second in a $80k OC/N3X race at Keeneland back on April 28th.

5-Royal Hill has been a fairly consistent money earner during his career (19-4-4-3) and comes into this race off a win against $32k OC/N2X company.

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