Really, the frustration began at last year's Belmont.
Animal Kingdom was injured in that race, suffering a fracture in his left hind leg that would require surgery. He spent the rest of the year resting and rehabbing.
He returned to the track and won at Gulfstream in February, only to have his planned trip to the
While many recent Kentucky Derby winners have retired early and been sent off to stud, Motion continues training Animal Kingdom toward a return to the track. The colt jogged “one to two miles” in a field near one of Motion’s barns at the Fair Hill Training Center in
"He continues to do really well, and has really done everything we've asked of him," Motion said. "We're going slowly with him, and he'll just jog for another week or so and then we can gallop him. But he wasn't sitting around that long this time and hasn't lost as much muscle, so it's easier to bring him back."
As I wrote in my story for Wednesday’s paper, a commitment to ride Animal Kingdom in Dubai cost jockey
Velazquez, of course, only ended up on Animal Kingdom after his planned ride,
Motion happens to be close friends with Velazquez – they have children the same age, and spent several years working from the same tracks – and admitted as much before saying he thought Velazquez would fit Union Rags – also trained at Fair Hill, by Michael Matz – well. He thinks the jockey is dynamic enough to handle any sort of horse or race, and that his familiarity with Belmont will be a boon.
"He really does fit any horse," Motion said. "He runs out front a lot but I've seen him be very patient on the grass. The thing is, with the Belmont, it's like any big sporting even. The key for those athletes in big games is just to stay calm. He's one of the best riders in the world, but on a day like that it's about being able to come through. And he does. When the chips are down, when there's all that pressure, he produces."
Much of the horse-race observing world hopes he does. Union Rags was probably the most touted horse coming into this Kentucky Derby prep season -- in part because of his commanding win on the Belmont track last year in the Grade I Champagne Stakes -- and has yet to show why in a big race. He skipped the Preakness and has trained well. Whether he'll like the distance is an unkown, Matz said, but the