The sudden star of the horse racing world (at least in the U.S.) is Animal Kingdom, the surprise winner of the Kentucky Derby.
Now the focus of the Triple Crown scene moves from Louisville, Ky., to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes.
Animal Kingdom seems to be a popular choice among those who casually watch racing. Particularly, those in Maryland.
Animal Kingdom, you see, is a Maryland-based horse with a back story that the industry relishes as a public face.
Graham Motion, the horse’s trainer, is a humble, soft-spoken native of England who practices European-style conditioning, which focuses on what is right for the horse. That means:
*Training in a rural setting, as opposed to a track. Motion’s Herringswell Stables is based at the bucolic Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, where his horses get to gallop through the woods and frolic in grassy paddocks, as opposed to being cooped up in stalls for 22 hours a day at a track. The practice of basing racehorses at tracks doesn’t exist in England or Europe.
The Derby was Animal Kingdom’s first race on dirt, after three on synthetic surfaces and one on grass.
Every year, many in the racing industry root for the Derby winner to take the Preakness because they want to see a horse break the Triple Crown drought, now at 33 years.
A Triple Crown would thrust the publicity-starved sport into the headlines.