Gulfstream Park: Animal Kingdom Returns on Allowance Race Saturday

Carlos TorresContributor IFebruary 18, 2012

Animal Kingdom makes his return this Saturday at Gulfstream Park
Animal Kingdom makes his return this Saturday at Gulfstream ParkTravis Lindquist/Getty Images

Reigning three-year-old champ and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom will make his return to thoroughbred racing on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Animal Kingdom will launch his 2012 campaign in a mile-and-one-sixteenths optional claiming and allowance event over the Gulfstream turf course.

The race will be the fifth on the card and will have a $60,000 purse. The conditions for the race are an optional $80,000 claiming price and N3X, meaning this race is for horses non-winners of more than three races.

It might seem odd, but Animal Kingdom has just that many wins, three.

The four-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) is being pointed to the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31, and this should serve as his preparation race.

Original plans called for Animal Kingdom to make his return at the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes on February 25, but, as trainer Graham Motion told, he had several reasons to push his comeback sooner.

Motion mentioned, among the deciding factors, that he felt compelled to make the comeback at Gulfstream Park, because of the help they provided at Palm Meadows during Animal Kingdom's preparation.

Animal Kingdom has six recorded workouts for this race, the last five being at Palm Meadows. The highlights of those were back-to-back five-furlong workouts where he had the best time of the day.

On January 25, he did :59 4/5 (best of eight), and on February 1 he did :59 3/5 (best of 10).

Motion also expressed concern about the track conditions for the Tampa Bay Stakes, as rain is expected for that day. That could have impacted the purpose of Animal Kingdom's preparation.

As for the race itself, it will mark the first time that the Team Valor International-owned champion will run, since the ill-fated Belmont Stakes last June.

Animal Kingdom will be ridden again by John Velazquez and will face five opponents that lack the name or the glory of the ones he was used to facing, but who could upset him nonetheless.

His main opponents are a couple of Hills.

I am not referring to physical or metaphorical ones, but horses with Hill on their names, Monument Hill and Royal Hill.

Monument Hill comes from winning both of his races this year at a mile's distance. He will be ridden again by Javier Castellano, who was aboard for both wins this past January.

He is a stalker who has shown consistency throughout his career and should run ahead of Animal Kingdom. This could be key, since he can make a move from near the front and resist Animal Kingdom's patented late kick for the upset.

Royal Hill, is an improving horse who is one-for-two this year, and one that cannot be overlooked.

He is the fastest horse in the race and should be taken to the lead by jockey Paco Lopez. With no one to challenge, he might show them the way around the track.

Also, he's had his two career-best Beyer figures in those two races. An 86 and a 92 (on the win) might not be scorching the track, but given the race conditions, if he repeats or improves upon them, he'll be hard to catch.

The other horse worthy of consideration might be Bill Mott trainee Midnight Mischief.

This horse's quality is only bested by Animal Kingdom here, but Midnight Mischief is coming from an even longer layoff—has not run since last April.

Although Mott is known for running his horses when they are ready and is very good with horses coming from layoffs, this horse might use this race as a preparation for the rest of the year.

I am sure Animal Kingdom's connections expect him to win this race. I would keep an eye on Royal Hill if I were you and make a bet to upset Animal Kingdom.

But I think the most important things that we should get from this race is where he is at and whether he will be able to regain the momentum he had last year.

Fans were starting to rally behind this horse, and they'll be following closely once again to see if he can make a run for the Dubai Cup.

Hopefully, he will give us a win in his return, but, no matter what happens, it's worthy of watching Animal Kingdom on his comeback try.


Gulfstream Park – Race 5

Post Time: 2:25 pm EST








Luis Jurado




Bell by the Ridge

Kent J. Desormeaux




Monument Hill

Javier Castellano




Midnight Mischief

Rajiv Maragh




Royal Hill

Paco Lopez




Animal Kingdom

John R. Velazquez