01/11/2013 3:57PM

Aqueduct: Dominguez excited about riding Animal Kingdom in Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap

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Barbara D. Livingston
Animal Kingdom will have a new rider, Ramon Dominguez, for the Feb. 9 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Ramon Dominguez will head to Gulfstream Park next weekend where he most likely will accept his third straight Eclipse Award as North America’s outstanding jockey.

But it is a trip to Gulfstream on Feb. 9 that Dominguez may be even more excited about.

Dominguez will ride Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner in the Grade 1, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. Amazingly, Dominguez will become the seventh jockey to ride Animal Kingdom in what will be the colt’s 10th career start.

“Very much so,” Dominguez said Friday morning when asked if he was looking forward to riding Animal Kingdom. “It looks like he performs well on any surface. He really hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Dominguez takes over from Rafael Bejarano, who rode Animal Kingdom to a second-place finish to leading Horse of the Year candidate Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. That was Animal Kingdom’s first start off a near nine-month layoff.

Trainer Graham Motion said Dominguez was his first choice to replace John Velazquez, who was committed to Wise Dan for the Mile. Dominguez had made a commitment to ride Little Mike in the Mile and Motion had secured Bejarano before Little Mike was re-routed to the Turf, which he won under Dominguez.

Velazquez is committed to ride Point of Entry in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

“No secret, Ramon is one of the top riders if not the top rider in the country,” Motion said. “I certainly have a rapport with him. I’m very comfortable with him. There’s nothing clever about it.”

Dominguez is closing in 5,000 victories. He won two races at Aqueduct on Friday and now has 4,978 in his career.

Motion did say that he only has a one-race commitment from Dominguez. Motion is using the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap as a stepping-stone for Animal Kingdom to the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30.

Coincidentally, Little Mike is headed to Dubai and will run once over Meydan’s synthetic surface to determine whether he would be a candidate for the World Cup or be kept on the turf for a race such as the $5 million Sheema Classic at 1 1/2 miles or the $5 million Duty Free at 1 1/8 miles.

Cranky More than 1 year ago
Two great champions together. This is going to be a great race.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh I hope Romans can get the owner of Little Mike to reconsider the Dubai nonsense. So many horses have competed there and come back to the US all the poorer.
ReddyRoadster More than 1 year ago
Liked the King from his very first start. Unfortunate injury kept him from his rightful crown. AK all the way.
Chris Lake More than 1 year ago
If you closely at the BC Mile, AK was the winner if not for Raphael Bejarano
Jeffries Will More than 1 year ago
and taking a negative rider change will help? look at dominguez numbers when he leaves ny. vastly overrated
Perl More than 1 year ago
Best turf jock I the country, hands down.
Jock More than 1 year ago
On the Grass at 1 mile or less he would never beat Wise Dan.
Jamie DeRouen More than 1 year ago
There was no way he was beating Wise Dan, and he wont beat him next time.
Earl Forte More than 1 year ago
1st race off a 9 month layoff, and make no mistake about it, traffic cost him that race. If the horse can stay healthy, he can dominate racing.
ron More than 1 year ago
id bet all the other jockeys at aq. are glad to see him get the mount..
Rob More than 1 year ago
well Bejarano really blew it last time, hopefully Ramon is better
Union_Rags More than 1 year ago
Animal Kingdom says, I don't care who rides, just don't get in my way.
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago
ramone adds 3lgns to any horseherides