01/25/2013 3:44PM

Gulfstream Park: Animal Kingdom will have Rosario aboard for Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap

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Barbara D. Livingston
Animal Kingdom's schedule calls for him to breeze twice more before the Feb. 9 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Graham Motion confirmed Friday, while braving the cold at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, that Joel Rosario will ride Animal Kingdom when he starts his season in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 9.

Rosario will step in for the injured Ramon Dominguez, who Motion had tabbed last month to ride Animal Kingdom in his 2013 debut. Dominguez is recuperating from injuries suffered in a recent riding mishap at Aqueduct.

This is the second time Motion has lost out on getting Dominguez aboard Animal Kingdom. The Eclipse Award-winning rider was Motion’s first choice to replace John Velazquez, who was committed to ride Wise Dan, aboard the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. But Dominguez had originally given a call to ride Little Mike in the Mile. By the time he learned Little Mike had been re-routed to the Turf, Motion had secured the services of Rafael Bejarano for his horse.

“The whole thing has been kind of frustrating, having to change riders so many times like we have with Animal Kingdom,” said Motion, who was planning to escape the cold later that afternoon, scheduled to board a plane for south Florida. “I know it’s circumstances, but it’s always frustrating, particularly when it happens with the best horse you’ve ever trained.”

Motion said Rosario, among the leading riders during the current session, was a logical choice to replace Dominguez.

“It was a group decision to reach out for Joel once we learned Ramon had been injured,” said Motion. “He was one of the guys we talked about riding Animal Kingdom in the Breeders’ Cup, and he’s been doing very well down there thus far this winter.”

Motion plans to breeze Animal Kingdom twice more before the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, where his competition will include Point of Entry and Unbridled Command. Velazquez is the regular rider for Point of Entry.

Motion is planning on using the Gulfstream Park Handicap as a prep for Animal Kingdom for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30.

“He worked once around the seven-furlong turf course at Palm Meadows last Monday and he’ll do the same thing again this Monday,” said Motion.