02/01/2012 11:43AM

Animal Kingdom headed to Tampa Bay for his Dubai World Cup prep

Barbara D. Livingston
Animal Kingdom will launch his 2012 campaign in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb. 25.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Kentucky Derby winner and 3-year-old champion Animal Kingdom will likely launch his 2012 campaign on Feb. 25 on the grass in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes, trainer Graham Motion confirmed on Wednesday.

Motion, who was in Fair Hill, Md., on Wednesday, made the announcement shortly after Animal Kingdom worked five furlongs over the Palm Meadows turf course in 59.61 seconds, according to track clocker Bryan Walls.  Animal Kingdom completed his final quarter in 22.93 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:11.61 and pulling up seven-eighths in 1:24.05.

[MORE: Animal Kingdom profile page]

“I talked to my assistant David Rock and he said the work went exactly as we planned,” said Motion. “Animal Kingdom set off about five or six lengths behind Badleroibrown, another horse owned by Team Valor, and caught him around the sixteenth pole. The two finished on even terms, after which it is my understanding Animal Kingdom galloped out very strongly, which was by design. David said he was very happy with how it went.”

The Tampa Bay Stakes will be Animal Kingdom’s only prep before the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31. Motion said the decision to bring Animal Kingdom back in the Tampa Bay Stakes was based strictly on timing. Earlier, he had been considering the Grade 1, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile turf race on Feb. 11, for Animal Kingdom’s comeback.

[MORE: Animal Kingdom has successful surgery]

“The Tampa Bay race is just too logical a spot for me not to run him there,” said Motion. “It gives me a chance to work him three more times. Today was only his second five-furlong work. As much as I’d love to run him at Gulfstream, it would be pushing to have him ready on the 11th for the Turf Handicap and I wouldn’t want to compromise his chances of going to Dubai by rushing him into the prep.  Ultiamately, this is all about getting him started and giving him the best opportunity to go to Dubai.”