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Kingdom put through paces at Ascot

May 29, 2013

Sporting Life

Trainer Graham Motion and the assortment of investors in the future stallion are carrying out a distinctly bold experiment by transferring the former winner of the Kentucky Derby on dirt and March's Dubai World Cup on Tapeta to the grass of Berkshire.

Although successful on the turf in America, the rain-softened going on the straight mile course was something different for the powerful chestnut to encounter, but the blowout was considered of such importance that jockey John Velazquez jetted across the Atlantic especially, and was in Britain for only a day.

Animal Kingdom has been stabled with David Lanigan in Lambourn for the few weeks since he arrived victorious from Dubai and came to Ascot with an un-named lead horse with a Lanigan rug.

Taking in the final five furlongs of the straight course, the five-year-old did not really need his companion as he stretched lengths away from him and Velazquez pushed right him out to the post.

There was a moment of anxiety for the vastly experienced Puerto Rican as Animal Kingdom fly-jumped at the line, but the combination were quickly back on an even keel.

"He hadn't been on soft turf like today but he handled it very well," said Velazquez.

"He's very versatile, he has won on dirt, synthetic and grass, I wasn't sure if he'd handle it but he did.

"I hadn't ridden him since Gulfstream the February before last, but he felt the same, he's by far one of the best horses I have ridden."

Referring to the minor fright, the 42-year-old said: "He just saw the line and jumped right on top of it.

"It's a different place, and you've got to expect something new.

"The grass was going one way, and the line the other and he jumped on top of it, rather than over it.

"I knew he had seen something, but he'll have blinkers and a shadow roll (noseband) on raceday anyway. Everything else went very well."

Velazquez has experienced the Royal meeting himself already and won the 2009 Windsor Castle and Queen Mary Stakes on Wesley Ward's quicksilver two-year-olds Strike The Tiger and Jealous Again.

"I know the track very well, you just need the horse to help you out," he said.

"I arrived yesterday morning so I did get my sleep. I had been riding at Belmont on Monday but I was beaten on the wire in the (Grade One) Metropolitan Handicap, so it was a long journey!

"I go back today and ride at Belmont tomorrow. I don't know how long I will come back to Ascot for, but it would be great to stay and get some more rides."

Motion was born in Cambridge but moved to America as a teenager and is based in Maryland.

A highly successful trainer Stateside, he, too, was returning home and will be back next Saturday to oversee preparations until Ascot.

Motion missed the incident after the line as he had accompanied Animal Kingdom to the start aboard his hack.

"John was very pleased and I'm really happy how he handled the soft grass," he said.

"This isn't something I would normally do but I thought this was very important. What we're doing is so different, every stone we turn over will help.”

"David Lanigan's has been great, it's a relaxed environment and I'd imagine he'll do an easier piece of work next week and one bit more the week before Ascot."

Animal Kingdom is now owned by three parties - Arrowfield, Sheikh Mohammed and Team Valor - and a number of representatives were watching the work.

The Queen Anne will be his final start before he takes up duties at Arrowfield Stud in New South Wales, Australia. He will then potentially 'shuttle' across continents.

Arrowfield owner John Messara said: "We've already had a pretty strong amount of interest already, with some very good mares booked."