Trainer H. Graham Motion announced Wednesday his 2011 Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, will probably make his first start as a 4-year-old Feb. 25 on the grass at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade III, $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
“The Tampa Bay race is just too logical a spot for me not to run him there,” Motion told the Daily Racing Form from his Fair Hill, Md., base after Animal Kingdom worked five furlongs on the turf at Palm Meadows in 59.61 seconds. “It gives him a chance to work three more times. Ultimately, this is all about getting him started and giving him the best opportunity to go to Dubai.”
The Tampa Bay Stakes would be Animal Kingdom’s only prep for the $10-million Dubai World Cup on March 31. Animal Kingdom has not raced since suffering a hind leg fracture while finishing sixth in the Belmont Stakes on June 11.
Animal Kingdom, who won the Grade III Spiral at Turfway and finished second in the Preakness in addition to his Kentucky Derby victory, won a 2011 Eclipse Award as leading 3-Year-Old Male. He is following the same path to Dubai as multiple-Eclipse winner Gio Ponti two years ago.
Should he start in the Tampa Bay Stakes, it is believed he would be the first Kentucky Derby winner to subsequently race at Tampa Bay Downs.
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When Sharon and David Hinsley inherited a few horses upon the death of their friend Lucy Woodard, they never imagined the journey on which one would lead them.
Party of Eight, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Evansville Slew-Believe Teenie, by Believe It, broke her maiden at Tampa Bay Downs in a $7,500-$6,500 maiden claiming race as a 4-year-old on March 5, 2005.
On Wednesday, the now-11-year-old mare made her 82nd and final start a winning one, rallying under jockey Pablo Morales for a 1-length victory in a five-and-a-half furlong sprint for $5,000 claiming horses at odds of 6-1.
In between those bookend victories, Party of Eight rewarded the Hinsleys and their partners (the horse was named for the eight original syndicate owners comprising Arbywood Stable) with her durability, honesty and persistence.
“She has meant more to us than I could ever tell you in a million years,” said Sharon Hinsley, who announced plans to retire Party of Eight and send her to Ocala to be bred to a Stonewall Farm stallion, possibly Greatness.
Trained her entire career by David, Party of Eight leaves racing with 16 victories from 82 starts, along with six seconds, 19 thirds and career earnings of $201,487.
“When we inherited her, it was a partnership of friendship more than anything,” said Sharon Hinsley, who added that one partner has since dropped by the wayside. “We enjoyed some really happy times with her, some when she more than paid for herself and a few when she didn’t quite do so.
“We thought 11 seemed to be a good age to race her through. But emotionally, there is going to be a void with her leaving the (13-horse Hinsley) stable,” Sharon Hinsley said.
Amazingly, Party of Eight was probably at her best at 9, winning seven races in a row – the first four at Tampa Bay Downs and the latter three at Arlington outside Chicago. Her late-career success came on the heels of the David Hinsley-trained Rumor Has It winning the Grade III Kentucky Cup Turf in 2008 at age 7 at odds of 59-1 and two additional stakes the following year.
Although Mike and Judy Crowe are listed as Party of Eight’s breeders, Sharon Hinsley said Ronnie and Lucy Woodard of Zionsville, Ind. were the de facto breeders. Both now deceased, they owned Lost Run Farm in Zionsville, where they raised Thoroughbreds and German Shepherds.
Lucy Woodard’s father, Dr. Goethe Link, was a pioneering hot-air balloon pilot and an amateur astronomer. Ronnie Woodard was an amateur race car driver and part-owner at one time of the Indiana Pacers basketball team.
Ronnie Woodard’s big moment in racing came in the Grand National at Aintree, England in 1964. He was the principal owner of Team Spirit, who captured the famous steeplechase race by a nose.
Sharon Hinsley kept thinking of the Woodards Wednesday, as their gift of Party of Eight went out on top. And she wondered aloud about the role of Providence in the mare’s career; she was eligible to be claimed in more than 50 of her starts, yet raced exclusively for the Hinsleys and partners.
“I think it was one of those ‘meant-to-be’ things, that we were meant to have her and somebody above was making sure we took good care of her,” Sharon Hinsley said.
Jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr. returned to the winner’s circle Wednesday on his first day back since being injured last week. Allen won the eighth race, a mile-and-a-sixteenth turf claiming event, aboard the 4-year-old filly Red for Certain for owner Armand Delaperriere and trainer Anthony Pecoraro.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Tampa Bay Downs with a first-race post time of 12:25 p.m. Saturday is Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South, featuring the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes, the Grade III, $150,000 Endeavour Stakes on the turf and the $150,000 Florida Oaks on the turf. Retired jockey Steve Cauthen will be on hand from 1-3 p.m. to sign autographs.