Saturday, March 26, 2011 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, Ky., Mar. 26, 2011 – Animal Kingdom was last going into the first turn of the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park Saturday, but he was first at the end, angling out and closing steadily down the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Decisive Moment. Twinspired finished third, another 3 1/4 lengths back.
The winner's share of the Grade 3 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes will likely earn Animal Kingdom a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) gate should owners Team Valor International and trainer Graham Motion decide to send him.
"I think it was a very impressive race today," said Motion. "Today you couldn't afford to get too far out of it. All three of my horses (Animal Kingdom, Rushaway runner-up Crimson China, and Marion Ravenwood, sixth in the Bourbonette Oaks) were last down the backstretch. That makes his race all the more impressive.
"We wanted to run Crimson China in this race because he seemed to be more mature, and we didn't want to throw this horse into the deep end. I won't be in a hurry to run him back in the Blue Grass off of this today."
As for Derby plans, Motion said: "We haven't had him on the dirt but it's something Barry (Irwin of Team Valor) and I will talk about. I don't think distance is a problem. Now he's got the earnings. We know he's an impressive animal."
While Animal Kingdom set about saving ground for a late run, 8-5 favorite Positive Response set the pace while tracked closely by Son of Posse and Decisive Moment. Under their pressure Positive Response clocked the first quarter of the 1 1/8-mile race in :23.57 and the half in :46.56 before beginning to fade. Decisive Moment led briefly, marking six furlongs in 1:12.57, and despite his own prolonged duel held a good second after Animal Kingdom took over at the top of the stretch. Final time was 1:52.32.
Jockey Alan Garcia said Animal Kingdom didn't break well and had a bit of trouble around the first turn, dictating his plans for the rest of the race. "I decided to be patient and save ground," he said. “I stayed on the rail because I had a feeling everybody would try to go wide. I figured that if he was good enough, he would make a move and he did. I'm very excited. The long distances will be good for him. Wherever they want to go with this horse, I want to be there."
Behind the top three finishers were Beachcombing, Taptowne, Preachintothedevil, Son of Posse, Positive Response, Thirtyfirststreet, Glint, and Rescind the Trade. King Congie scratched.
Second choice at 3-1, Animal Kingdom paid $8, $4.60, and $4.
Saturday's Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes was the second win for Motion in Turfway’s Kentucky Derby prep. He won the race with Adriano in 2008 when it was sponsored by Lane's End.
The Spiral Stakes was also the second stakes win within minutes for Motion, whose Smart Bid got up to win the Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (G2) by a nose at Fair Grounds just before the Spiral gates opened. "I was inside one of the offices (at Turfway) so I could see them both," said Motion. "It was a little too much actually. That's why we’re in the game, for races like these."
Animal Kingdom has now raced four times, winning twice and finishing second twice. His career earnings total $326,900. Of that, graded earnings account for $285,000, all from Saturday's Spiral Stakes, his first stakes attempt. Animal Kingdom is a son of Brazilian-bred star Leroidesanimaux.