01/17/2012 3:11PM

Gulfstream Park: Animal Kingdom works on turf, still eyeing Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Animal Kingdom could make his 2012 debut in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 11.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Just 12 hours after being named the 2011 3-year-old champion at Monday’s Eclipse Awards dinner, Animal Kingdom turned in his first workout since arriving in south Florida when going a very easy half-mile in 53.44 seconds over the Palm Meadows turf course Tuesday morning.

The dogs were out more than 100 feet on the inner course, according to the official track clocker.

"It was a very easy work," trainer Graham Motion said by phone from California shortly before boarding a plane home to Maryland later that morning. “We also worked Toby’s Corner today on the dirt. Originally, I thought about working Animal Kingdom on the dirt, but I’m glad we decided to put him on the grass, since the main track was on the deep side down there today.”

Motion said the fact Animal Kingdom did work on turf is a clear indication of his intentions when it comes to the newly crowned champ’s 2012 debut. Motion’s first major goal for Animal Kingdom this year is the Dubai World Cup on March 31.

“I’m about 90 percent certain his first start will be on the grass,” Motion said. “Barring anything unusual, that is our intention. I will nominate him for the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 11, and it all depends upon whether I think he’s ready to come back at that point. We’ve got about a three-week window to find a race for him beginning that weekend.”

Toby’s Corner, who has not started since winning the Grade 1 Wood Memorial last April, went an easy half-mile in 50.25 on the main track.

Animal Kingdom won the 3-year-old championship by three votes over Caleb’s Posse in one of the tightest races in Eclipse Award history.

“I really wasn’t sure that we were going to win,” Motion said. “I knew it would be close, and you could definitely make a case for both horses. For me, it’s just such a great honor to be the trainer of an Eclipse Award champion. It’s something I’ve dreamed about my whole career.”