Photos by Scott Serio unless otherwise noted
On any other day, at any other track, in any other $1million race, the result would have been more than acceptable for trainer Graham Motion. With a chance at notching a victory in the second leg of the elusive Triple Crown for thoroughbred racing in the balance, Animal Kindgom’s furious stretch drive to finish second, beaten ½-length, was tough to stomach.
Motion didn’t want the pressure that came with pursuing the Crown and never expected such an opportunity to enter his life. When the chestnut colt he trains powered to a win in the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby all the wheels were set in motion.
What ensued was a journey that drew in the entire Motion family. Having made the decision to train Animal Kingdom at his home base at the Fair Hill Training Center instead of Pimlico Race Course, the host track for the Preakness, the energy and distraction soon made its way to Cecil County in the Northeastern tip of Maryland.
Not only did the media make it to Fair Hill, but stars, politicians, pony clubs and Stride LIVE made the trip. The team of trainer Graham Motion and Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin did their best to accommodate every request for an interview in the midst of trying to keep the strapping son of Leroidesanimeaux on regular schedule.
The homebred Animal Kingdom would only be making the sixth start of his young career at Pimlico. To win the Triple Crown, he would need that win and another win in the Belmont Stakes three weeks later. Animal Kingdom had already made history as the first horse since Exterminator in 1918 to win the Derby with only four previous starts. No horse with such a light resume has ever won the Triple Crown.
Graham Motion and Barry Irwin knew they had their work cut out for them. Below enjoy a behind the scenes look at the preparations for Animal Kingdom’s quest for Triple Crown glory and the moments that involved all those connected to him.
|Animal Kingdom arrives at his new home at the Fair Hill Training Center|
|Graham Motion walks the barn with his son Chappy before Animal Kingdom arrives.|
|Team Valor Assistant Megan Jones spends time with Thursby, a 1/2 brother to Animal Kingdom by the same dam Dalicia.|
|Graham Motion greets the media, before the media throng grows.|
|Graham Motion talks with Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid.|
|Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin fields a 50-minute phone call with turf writer Andy Beyer, one of hundreds of interviews.|
|The sign at the entrance to Fair Hill shows the local impact and interest in Animal Kingdom.|
|Barry and Kathleen Irwin watch one of the 2yo runners in South Africa via the internet during the media frenzy.|
|The Waredaca Pony Club came to visit Kentucky Derby winning Animal Kingdom.|
|John Mitchell is an exercise rider for Graham Motion, but he brought his son Eoin to see Animal Kingdom.|
|Kathleen and Barry Irwin watch Animal Kingdom exercise.|
|The media frenzy gathers steam.|
|Graham Motion throws out the first pitch at the Orioles game on the Thursday before the Preakness.(photo Eric Kalet)|
|Graham practices throwing with his son Chappy.(photo Eric Kalet)|
|The group of onlookers at Clocker's Tower grows to include fans, media and Barry Irwin.|
|Graham Motion and his son Chappy arrive at Pimlico on Preakness Day.|
|Animal Kingdom waits in Stall 40 for his shot at the Triple Crown.|
|Anita Motion fixes the jacket of her son Chappy before heading to the track on Preakness Day.|
|Anita Motion meets with Martin O'Malley, the Governor of the State of Maryland, before the Preakness.|
|Graham Motion speaks with Martin O'Malley, the Governor of the State of Maryland|
|Assistant Trainers Dave Rock and Adrian Rolls lead Animal Kingdom to the paddock for the Preakness.|
|In the post parade before the Preakness.|
|After a troublesome break in the Preakness, Animal Kingdom is far back sitting 13th out of 14 horses.|
|By the clubhouse turn, Animal Kingdom is still far back and his hopes of capturing the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown slip.|
|John Velazquez urged Animal Kingdom forward and he unleashed a roaring stretch drive in front of more than 107,000 fans.|
|The surge was not enough and Animal Kingdom was defeated by Shackleford, thus ending the Derby winner's Triple Crown hopes.|
|Still A Star - Former VISA CEO, Team Valor investor and Animal Kingdom Partner Carl Pascarella and his wife Yurie visited the Derby winner at his home in Fair Hill the day after his second place finish in the Preakness.|
Special Thanks To:
Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin and his wife Kathleen, Graham Motion, Anita Motion, Dave Rock, Megan Jones, Jane Motion and Chappy Motion for letting Eclipse Sportswire be a fly on the wall and document this trip. ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT ECLIPSE SPORTSWIRE.