Animal Kingdom winning 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
By Frank Angst, Blood-Horse
The two most accomplished U.S.-based horses pointing for the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) will enter the Nov. 3 race at Santa Anita Park off vastly different preparation schedules.
Wise Dan will be looking to add to an already splendid season. The 5-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding enters the Mile off three straight graded stakes wins in one-mile turf races including a 2 1/4-length score in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) Oct. 6 at Keeneland.
Taking a different approach will be last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom, who has not raced since posting an easy win in an allowance/optional claiming race Feb. 18 at Gulfstream Park. At the time, the Leroidesanimaux colt was preparing for a start in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) but those plans were changed after Animal Kingdom developed soreness in his left hind leg while preparing for the race.
Charlie Lopresti, trainer of Wise Dan, believes the Mile will be one of the toughest fields at this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships. Based on pre-entry preferences, the race also will likely include recent QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) winner Excelebration, Arlington Million Stakes (gr. IT) winner Little Mike, and top Southern California-based turf milers Mr. Commons and Jeranimo, among others.
"If he were to win this race, he should be considered one of the best horses, sure," Lopresti said. "He'd be one of the best, not the best, but one of the best in the world. It's very hard to say who would be the best."
With jockey John Velazquez committed to ride Wise Dan, trainer Graham Motion said he likely will go with top Southern California-based rider Rafael Bejarano to ride Animal Kingdom in the Mile. Motion said training Animal Kingdom up to the Mile has been a unique challenge but noted that having a fresh horse for the race can be an advantage.
"In May, I thought it would be a reasonable goal," Motion said. "He's that caliber of horse."
Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom could meet again in the spring in Dubai. Both Motion and Lopresti said they would point their horses to the 2013 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), if all goes well in the months ahead. Both Wise Dan and Animal Kingdom have won graded stakes races on synthetic surfaces and Meydan features a Tapeta Footings surface.