Derby winner Animal Kingdom trains at the Fair Hill Training Center on May 14

Early Saturday morning (May 14, 2011) a few lucky Maryland pony clubbers and their parents got a chance to see the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom at the Fair Hill Training Center. The group, from Waredaca in Laytonsville, had been planning a field trip to the training center for several weeks, not knowing that the future Derby winner would be stabled at Team Valor International’s barn with trainer Graham Motion.

When news of the Derby winner heading to Fair Hill hit the press, Waredaca pony club assistant coordinator Katherine Rizzo talked with Sally Goswell, manager of the FHTC, about possibly getting a chance for the pony clubbers to see Animal Kingdom in the barns. Goswell came up with an even better plan.

The pony clubbers arrived at FHTC at 8 in the morning in the misting rain and headed down to the training tracks with Goswell. They first watched horses working on the synthetic track and met such trainers as Michael Matz (also an Olympic medalist in show jumping). Animal Kingdom, Graham Motion and his team of riders arrived at the track around 9am and while all the press, photographers and racing enthusiasts had to settle for watching from the outside rail, the pony clubbers got a closer view from standing in between the two tracks.

After watching the Derby winner train, they followed the Valor crew back to the barns, snapped shots while Animal Kingdom got a bath and then got a chance to pick Anita Motion’s brain, asking all kinds of questions from feeding a race horse to learning how to ride them successfully.

The rest of the morning was spent touring the various facilities at FHTC, including the vet clinic, Therapy Center, and training starting gate.

Waredaca pony clubbers carefully walk across the dirt track at the Fair Hill Training Center to watch Animal Kingdom train.

Trainer Graham Motion watching Animal Kingdom from across the track

More pony clubbers watching other horses breeze

Waredaca pony clubbers hitching a ride to see the vet clinic after meeting Animal Kingdom and members of Team Valor International