HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom launched his 3-year-old campaign on the grass, and there is a good chance trainer Graham Motion may use the same strategy to get Animal Kingdom legged up for the first major goal of his 4-year-old season, the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31.
Animal Kingdom continues to prepare for his much-anticipated return at Motion's year round headquarters, the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where he worked a half-mile this past Monday in 49 seconds in company with Toby's Corner. It was the second official recorded work for Animal Kingdom since he underwent surgery to repair a slab fracture in his left hind leg, incurred during the roughly run Belmont Stakes.
"Animal Kingdom started last year with a mile and one-eighth race on the grass at the beginning of February, and I wouldn't rule out doing the same thing with him this winter," Motion said by phone from Fair Hill on Thursday. "He needs to run in February to make the World Cup, and ideally a race in mid-February would be ideal -- something like the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.
The Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap will be decided at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 11.
"There's also a race in Dubai in the middle of February, and I wouldn't totally rule that out either," said Motion.
Motion said that as long as the weather holds up he plans to work Animal Kingdom and Toby's Corner each of the next two weekends at Fair Hill before shipping them to Palm Meadows in Florida.
"The two of them are pretty much on the same schedule, and I'd like to keep breezing them together, although Animal Kindgom is pretty sharp off that last work and I don't want either of them getting too racy at this point," said Motion. "I'll probably keep them together again at least this weekend and then go from there."
Toby's Corner has not raced since sustaining a leg injury following his victory over Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 Wood last April. Motion said he too should be ready to return sometime around the middle of February.
"A race at seven furlongs first time back would make the most sense for Toby's Corner, perhaps the graded stakes at Gulfstream in mid-February," said Motion, referring to the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship on Feb. 18.
Motion also said Gold Magillah, who finished a well-beaten eighth making his stakes debut last weekend in the Gulfstream Park Derby, will likely return to the turf for his next start.
"I don't want to be too hard on him off that one race," said Motion. "I'll probably look for a one-other-than allowance race for him on the grass. That's kind of what I thought he wants to do anyway."