10/28/2011 3:27PM

Breeders' Cup: Motion back at scene of triumph

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Aruna, with Heather Craig riding, gallops over the main track at Churchill Downs on Friday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Graham Motion admitted it was an “emotional moment” when he stepped into Barn 22 on the Churchill Downs backstretch on Friday morning, the same barn that housed Motion and his Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom five months ago.

“It was an odd sentiment to be back here this morning, overwhelming to a degree,” Motion said shortly after sending out his Ladies’ Classic hopeful, Aruna, to gallop 1 1/2 miles over the main track. “Obviously winning the Kentucky Derby was a life-changing experience. I can still recall arriving at the barn the morning after winning the Derby and seeing 30 people waiting there to talk to me. It’s a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Motion made the fateful decision to run Animal Kingdom in the Derby after watching him turn in a brilliant workout over the Churchill Downs surface a week before the race. He will have to make a similar decision regarding Aruna’s Breeders’ Cup status after she works over the same track on Saturday. Aruna is also pre-entered in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Like Animal Kingdom before the Derby, Aruna has done all her training and racing either on turf or artificial surfaces. She tested dirt during her 1 1/2-mile gallop under exercise rider Heather Craig near the end of training hours Friday at Churchill Downs.

“It’s really hard to tell how well she handles the surface from just watching her gallop over it once,” said Motion. “Animal Kingdom galloped here all week before the Derby, and frankly I was kind of concerned until he turned in such a great workout. Aruna doesn’t need a real hard work or a flashy work [Saturday]. Sheldon Russell will breeze her, after which I’ll get his opinion on how she got over the surface and then make the decision whether to run her in the Ladies Classic or in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Motion is also scheduled to work his Juvenile Turf candidate State of Play over the turf here Saturday but said he is considering moving the work to Keeneland due to the conditions of the local course which has been closed for training each of the past two mornings.