Animal Kingdom has eye on Dubai; Take Charge Indy seeks double
Anytime a Kentucky Derby winner is scheduled to race, you know it's going to be a very special day. Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby champion, is expected to make Saturday a day to remember while making his 2013 debut in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.
Animal Kingdom only has two, possibly three, races ahead of him before retiring to stud in Australia. His run at Gulfstream is projected as his final start in the United States. The Graham Motion-trained five-year-old is then scheduled to race in the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30, with a possible tilt at Royal Ascot in June.
"The big picture is getting him to Dubai," said Motion, whose star captured a turf allowance at Gulfstream last season before being knocked out of action by injury.
"This race is an important stepping stone. Believe me, he's going to be ready to run, and it's not going to be easy. But the big picture is getting him to Dubai. It's always been our goal to get there."
Team Valor International's champion, who came off an 8 1/2-month layoff to finish second in the Breeders' Cup Mile behind Horse of the Year Wise Dan, figures to be sternly tested in Saturday's 1 1/8-mile turf handicap. Point of Entry, a three-time Grade 1 winner trained by Shug McGaughey, and Unbridled Command, who won his fifth race in a row in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last time out, are his leading rivals.
Gulfstream's Superstar Saturday program also features the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, which marks the reappearance of last year's Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy.
Take Charge Indy will seek to pull off the Florida Derby-Donn Handicap sweep, achieved by Quality Road (2009-2010), Harlan's Holiday (2002-2003) and Cryptoclearance (1987-1988).
"He's been doing super. We're looking forward to running him," trainer Patrick Byrne said. "It looks like a very tough race. They're coming out of the woodwork for this race."
The prospective field for the 57th running of Gulfstream's premier race for older horses includes multiple Grade 3 hero Csaba, a two-time stakes winner at the current meeting who will bid for his fifth straight victory; Flat Out, two-time winner of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup; Grade 1 scorers Pool Play and Ultimate Eagle; and Grade 2 winners El Padrino and Bourbon Courage.
"We're going to get our horse (Take Charge Indy) started and see where he fits in the handicap division," Byrne said. "All we can do is worry about our guy, and we're ecstatic with him.
"We're eager to get started. We look forward to having a nice year with him."
Bourbon Lane Stables and Wayne Lynn's four-year-old Bourbon Courage worked a half-mile in :48 1/5 Sunday morning over Gulfstream Park's fast dirt with leading rider Javier Castellano aboard.
"Javier said he went good and felt great," trainer Kellyn Gorder said. "We just have to keep him happy for the rest of the week."
Gorder was due to fly back to Kentucky Sunday afternoon for a few days before returning next weekend, noting that assistant Evan Downing would be looking after the colt in the meantime.
Asked about possible pace scenario Gorder said, "He doesn't need a speed duel or anything like that up front, but it would help him for there to be a legitimate pace to close in to."
The Kentucky-bred Bourbon Courage will be making his first start since a game third-place finish in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 23, beaten a length for it all by Shackleford and a head for second by Donn rival Take Charge Indy.
The Grade 1 doubleheader will be supported by a pair of Grade 3 stakes, the Suwannee River and the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship.
In the 68th running of the Suwannee River, a 1 1/8-mile grass race for fillies and mares, established Grade 3 winners Leading Astray, Romacaca and Kya One, among others, are expected to be challenged by the late-developing Abaco, who will bring a four-race winning streak into her stakes debut.
The Chris Block-trained Leading Astray breezed a half-mile in :48 4/5 over Gulfstream Park's firm turf Sunday morning, while Romacaca breezed an easy half-mile over the fast main track in :50.
The seven-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship is likely to attract the Marty Wolfson-trained duo of Indiano, the winner of the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream on December 29, and Swagger Jack, a two-time allowance/optional claiming winner at the current meeting.
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