02/07/2013 2:32PM

Gulfstream Park: Animal Kingdom, Point of Entry prep in Gulfstream Park Turf


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Although both have the date March 30 prominently circled on their calendars, trainers Graham Motion and Shug McGaughey are certainly not looking past Saturday, Feb. 9, when they send out Animal Kingdom and Point of Entry to kick off their 2013 campaigns in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

Animal Kingdom is using the Gulfstream Park Turf as a prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30. If all goes according to plan, Point of Entry would run earlier that same evening at Meydan in the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic.

Motion was hoping to use Animal Kingdom’s victory in a high-level optional claiming race here one year ago as a prep for the 2012 World Cup. But those plans had to be scrapped after Animal Kingdom suffered an injured pelvis while training up to his trip to Dubai.

Animal Kingdom was sidelined more than six months due to the injury. He made a sensational return at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, finishing second behind eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan, despite an eventful trip.

Joel Rosario will replace Rafael Bejarano aboard Animal Kingdom on Saturday.

[GULFSTREAM: Get Donn and GP Turf PPs, watch full card live]

“He’s doing great, everything’s gone smoothly since the Breeders’ Cup,” Motion said. “He’s breezed every week, things have gone without a hitch, although it’s certainly not going to be an easy race.”

Although Motion acknowledged the Gulfstream Park Turf is a prep for Dubai, he said this is a different situation than a year ago.

“Last year, he hadn’t run since the summer and we were kind of finding out where we were at with him because he needed a race before going to Dubai,” Motion said. “Obviously, he needs a race now, too, but this is the race we’ve been pointing for since the Breeders’ Cup. Does he have to win Saturday? No. It’s no gimme for sure, but he is doing very well.”

McGaughey echoed Motion’s sentiments, saying Point of Entry has trained extremely well at Payson Park for the Gulfstream Park Turf while acknowledging he doesn’t necessarily have to win the race. Point of Entry won three straight Grade 1 races in 2012 – the Man o’ War, Sword Dancer, and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational – at distances ranging from 11 to 12 furlongs before closing out the year finishing second, just a half-length behind Little Mike, in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“He’s doing fantastic,” McGaughey said. “A mile and an eighth over this track is probably not his best game, but if he were to run or be very competitive, it might open some doors in mile-and-an-eighth races down the line. It’s a good place to get him started, and if he goes over there and runs his race and runs well, we’re going to be satisfied.”

Despite the imposing presence of Animal Kingdom and Point of Entry, the Gulfstream Park Turf is anything but a two-horse race – not with Unbridled Command in the field. The New York-bred Unbridled Command brings a five-race winning streak into his 2013 debut, a skein that culminated with a 1 1/2-length triumph in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

The Gulfstream Park Turf could be Unbridled Command’s final race in the United States. A minority interest in Unbridled Command was sold last month to a partnership headed by David Bernsen with a provision to purchase a majority share from owner Lewis Lakin. Trainer Tom Bush said if Unbridled Command runs well Saturday, it could be his last start in this country. In 2011, Bernsen purchased turf stayer Sanagas and then sent him to Australia to compete in major races such as the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup.

“He’s doing terrific and is ready to go, but in Animal Kingdom and Point of Entry, he’ll be meeting horses on a different level than he’s ever met before,” Bush acknowledged.

With little or no pace in the race, Salto may try to steal the lead and steal the Gulfstream Park Turf on the front end. Salto, who’ll gets a nine-pound weight concession from Point of Entry, was on or with the lead after the opening six furlongs of each of his last three starts in 2012, including the El Prado in which he finished a tiring third behind Nikki’s Sandcastle on Dec. 22.