04/30/2011 12:10PM

Kentucky Derby: Motion, Irwin relieved after workout

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Barbara D. Livingston
Animal Kingdom (left) bears down on Meistersinger during their Saturday workout.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Whatever apprehension owner Barry Irwin and trainer Graham Motion had about running Animal Kingdom in next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby was alleviated Saturday morning at Churchill Downs, when Animal Kingdom, who heretofore has raced exclusively on grass and Polytrack, worked sharply over the dirt.

The work was one of five among Derby horses in the area on Saturday. Mucho Macho Man, Shackleford, and Twice the Appeal all worked at Churchill Downs, while a few miles away at the Trackside training facility, Twinspired put in his final drill.

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But it was the work of Animal Kingdom that was the most significant, because his status for the Derby hinged on how well he handled the track. With jockey Robby Albarado in the saddle, Animal Kingdom was timed by Daily Racing Form with a six-furlong move in 1:13.17, including a final quarter-mile in 24.01 seconds, while easily handling stablemate Meistersinger.

“I don’t think he could have done any better,” Motion said. “I thought he would handle it. I’d have been surprised and disappointed if he did not. He’s a very good workhorse.”

Irwin, who heads the Team Valor International syndicate that owns Animal Kingdom, said he “felt positive, but I couldn’t say I was confident” before the work, though he said he had an inkling Animal Kingdom would handle the dirt.

“He was at Adena Springs as a 2-year-old with Randy Bradshaw and he worked five or six times there,” Irwin said. “I called Randy up and he said he worked great on the dirt there. Here’s a horse who’s bred 1,000 percent for turf. Some of this is luck.”

Animal Kingdom, by turf star Leroidesanimaux, comes off a win in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway. He has made four starts, and has won twice. He has raced three times on Polytrack, and once on turf.

Motion also trains Toby’s Corner, the Wood Memorial winner, who was scheduled to have his final workout on Sunday morning at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland.

“We’ve still got a ways to go,” Motion said. “Hopefully we’ll have two good chances.”

Motion said Toby’s Corner would arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, one day later than his original plan.

“The weather looks like it’s going to be crummy here early in the week, and this will give him an extra day to get over the work,” Motion said.

Mucho Macho Man, with jockey Rajiv Maragh up, was timed in 1:00.46 for five furlongs. Maragh gave him a couple of whacks with the whip inside the furlong pole.

“Rajiv said he was looking around, so he cracked him,” said Kathy Ritvo, who trains Mucho Macho Man.

Mucho Macho Man lost his right front shoe at the start of the Louisiana Derby, his last start, in which he finished third. Since then, Mucho Macho Man has been wearing glue-on shoes, rather than ones affixed by nails.

“With me, something only happens one time,” she said. “It’s not going to happen twice.”

Shackleford, second to Dialed In last time out in the Florida Derby, flew through five furlongs in 58.83 seconds with exercise rider Tammy Fox up, an indication that he will, once again, be a major pace factor.

Twice the Appeal, the Sunland Derby winner, had Derby maestro Calvin Borel up for his work, which he completed in 1:15.62 for six furlongs.

“That was a typical, steady work for him, and he galloped out well,” said Jeff Bonde, who trains Twice the Appeal. “He’s a good finisher in his races.”

Bonde also worked Sway Away six furlongs in 1:13.98 with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. Sway Away, fourth in the Arkansas Derby in his last start, is currently 24th on the earnings list, so he needs four defections among those above him before entry time to get into the Derby’s 20-horse field.

“I sure hope he gets in,” Bonde said. “He’s a young horse, still learning.”

Bonde said that if Sway Away gets in, jockey Martin Garcia would have the mount in the Derby.

Twinspired, third to Animal Kingdom in the Spiral, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 at the Trackside training center.

* Dialed In, the likely Derby favorite, and Soldat both arrived at Churchill Downs Saturday afternoon following a flight from Florida.

– additional reporting by Byron King