Animal Kingdom – Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider David Nava Thursday morning at Santa Anita in preparation for his scheduled start in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile off an eight-month layoff.
“He looked terrific. I couldn’t be happier how he’s doing,” said trainer Graham Motion, who arrived in Southern California on Wednesday.
Animal Kingdom, who captured the 2011 Kentucky Derby, hasn’t run since winning a turf allowance at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 18.
“The biggest thing for me is to have him back. Yes, it’s great to be running in the Breeders’ Cup, but I’m just excited to have him back racing,” said Motion, whose Derby winner was sidelined with a pelvis fracture. “It’s frustrating to have a horse of this caliber stuck in the barn.”
Animal Kingdom, who injured his left hind leg after a sixth-place finish in the 2011 Belmont, had come off an eight-month layoff to win the Gulfstream allowance.
“He’s the best horse that I’ve ever trained. I’d like him to have a chance to show his Derby wasn’t a fluke, because I know how talented he is,” Motion said.
Animal Kingdom has won on dirt, synthetic and grass.
“I believe this horse’s best surface is the grass. To win the Derby on the dirt is a credit to him,” Motion said.
Motion said he doesn’t feel pressure to win the Mile, which has attracted a deep field that includes morning-line favorite Wise Dan, also a winner on dirt, synthetic and grass, and Excelebration, a multiple-stakes winner in Europe.
“I’m excited to have him back. To win the Mile would be extraordinary. I haven’t even allowed myself to think about it,” Motion said. “I just want to see him run a good race and be competitive with these horses.”
Excelebration – see European report
Jeranimo – Poor people from the South American jungle will be cheering for Jeranimo in the Breeders' Cup Mile Saturday.
Owner B.J. Wright sends winnings earned by the 6yo horse to Peru to help indigenous people along the Amazon River.
"I've supported a charitable foundation, House of the Children, with the stable winnings," said Wright. “The money is used for the Rainforest Flow project, which protects rain forests and builds water supply systems from streams to villages. We've done three villages at a cost of $400,000 each."
Wright, a 74-year-old Pasadena, Calif. resident who owns a water filtration company, said he believed the good karma created by his generosity has helped Jeranimo become a grade I stakes-winning millionaire.
Trainer Mike Pender was pleased with the 1m gallop on the Santa Anita turf Thursday by Jeranimo under exercise rider Jesus Medillin.
"All systems are go," said Pender. "He shipped over yesterday (from Betfair Hollywood Park) and cleaned up his tub. He will school in the first race tomorrow."
Pender first met Wright as a quarterback on a youth football team that Wright coached in Glendale, Cal.
Moonlight Cloud – see European report
Mr. Commons – Ian Banwell, owner-breeder of Mr. Commons, was on hand at the John Shirreffs stable Thursday to see the 4yo colt gallop 1m on the main track at Santa Anita under exercise rider Jacqueline Gomez.
Banwell, who owns St. George Farm in Kentucky and races under that name, flew in from his home in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife Caroline.
"He continues to progress to be a really fine racehorse," said Banwell. "What was most encouraging to John and me was the race at Del Mar (Del Mar Mile). The winner, Obviously, broke the track record. Mr. Commons finished better than he ever did and got beat by a nose. John said he had not gotten to the bottom of him yet.
"As an athlete, his recovery time is extraordinary," continued Banwell. "We're in a proper world championship, minus Frankel, and think he is a horse of that caliber. His advantage is that he likes Santa Anita quite a bit and only has to walk to the track out of his own barn but it's a fantastic field. We'll find out Saturday.”
Banwell explained that he named the horse after Rick Commons, headmaster of the Groton School near Boston attended by two of his three children. Banwell said that Commons would be moving to Southern California next year to accept a job as president of the Harvard Westlake School in Los Angeles.
Banwell wished that Commons could have attended the race Saturday. "He only saw him live once, when he won his last race here," said Banwell of the Arcadia Stakes in February. "He brought us luck."
Obviously – Trainer Mike Mitchell is an early bird, liking to get his business done well before most folks even make it out of bed. Thursday morning at Santa Anita, he had his two Breeders’ Cup horses, including Obviously who is scheduled to run in the Mile, trained up, cooled out and ready to go on with it well before the sun came up.
Obviously, an Irish-bred gelding, jogged around the track as part of his final preparations for the Mile. The 4yo will be handled by Santa Anita’s current leading rider, Joe Talamo.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he (Obviously) will be on the lead in the Mile and they’ll have to come catch him,” Mitchell said. “Talamo is the reason that’s so, and it’s funny how it got that way.
“When we bought this horse, it was because we thought he was a sprinter. We tried him several times sprinting and he always seemed to manage to find some trouble. So I said let’s try him long to see if we can get him out of trouble.”
In three grass races at a mile since, Obviously has been a winner each time, going to the front and never looking back.
“That first time on the grass, I never said anything to Joe about how to ride him,” Mitchell recalled. “I don’t like to give (my riders) instructions anyway and I never said anything to Joe. So here he goes and he opens up four or five in front on the backside and I’m really upset. ‘What the heck is he doing?’ I’m thinking. But then the horse just kept on going. And he’s done it twice more. That’s the way he wants to run and Joe discovered it. And we’re all sure glad he did.”
Suggestive Boy – Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally sent Suggestive Boy onto the Santa Anita turf course for his final breeze Thursday morning in advance of Saturday’s Mile. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who will partner with the 4yo colt on race day, was in the irons as he traveled 3f in 36 1/5 over firm ground.
“He just needed to stretch his legs. We’re weren’t looking for any fast times,” said Dan Landers, the assistant trainer.
Landers said that Suggestive Boy, who came into the barn in February after winning three straight group I races in Argentina in 2011, is now in the best form that they have seen since his arrival.
“We pretty much had to start from scratch with him, getting him fit to be ready to race all over again,” he said. “Now he has good energy and he feels good all of the time. He’s a pretty nice horse and I hope that we all get to see the best of him on Saturday.”
Willcox Inn – Conditioner and horse were reunited Thursday morning with the arrival of trainer Mike Stidham to oversee the final preparations for Saturday’s Mile.
The son of Harlan’s Holiday came out on the track after the renovation and stood at the gap for several minutes before embarking on an easy 1m gallop under exercise rider Freddy Alvarado. The 4yo colt picked up his ears down the lane when passed along the inside by a team working on the rail.
Owned by All In Stable and Lael Stable, Willcox Inn will once again be facing Wise Dan after finishing second to that rival in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 6. Despite the solid performance, he has been installed in the morning line at odds of 30-to-1.
“They’re totally discounting us,” Stidham said. “I don’t get it. He had to do pretty good to run second to Wise Dan, and we were running at the end of that race.
“He hasn’t gone backward since that race and if anything, he’s moved forward,” he continued. “He trained well at Keeneland and he’s been training well since getting here. One thing I noticed this morning is that he’s very happy. He’s relaxed. He’s comfortable which is always a good sign.”
Stidham said that Willcox Inn would school in the paddock Friday.
Wise Dan – Morton Fink’s Wise Dan, the morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Mile, made his first trip to the Santa Anita turf Thursday morning, jogging one time around accompanied by a pony and then galloping easily once around under exercise rider Damien Rock.
“I am glad that’s over,” said Rock, who accompanied Wise Dan on the flight from Kentucky on Wednesday. “He is so strong that I don’t want to let him get away from me so close to the race. I am happy that it went well.”
Trainer Charles Lopresti, who calls Wise Dan “the horse of a lifetime,” liked what he saw from the time Wise Dan arrived Wednesday afternoon to this morning’s activity.
“He came in here yesterday very confident and cleaned out the feed tub last night,” Lopresti said. “Damien said he liked the ground out there and that’s all he really needs. I just wanted to get him out there to jog and gallop a little just to see it.”
As Wise Dan came off the track, Lopresti talked glowingly of the earner of $2,461,638 with 12 victories in 19 starts and a 4-for-5 mark on grass at the mile distance.
“He is better now than he was before the Shadwell (Turf Mile on Oct. 6 at Keeneland), but I say that after every race,” Lopresti said. “He’s a good one and hopefully he will prove it Saturday. He will have to run the race of his life to win, but then whoever wins will have to, too.”
The trainer, who saddled Turallure to a runner-up finish in last year’s Mile at Churchill Downs, has plenty of respect for the rivals Wise Dan will face Saturday.
“The Europeans have a very good horse in Excelebration who has been beaten only by Frankel and they have a very nice filly in Moonlight Cloud,” Lopresti said. “And there are a couple of nice American horses that people are overlooking such as Obviously, who is very fast.”
Wise Dan is scheduled to school in the paddock with horses in this afternoon’s sixth race.
“We’ll see how the schooling goes and then tomorrow I may just jog him once around on the dirt track,” Lopresti said.