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Animal Kingdom trainer ready to see if success extends to Colonial Turf Cup

For a few weeks in May, Graham Motion's life was running in fast-forward. After working to put himself in that position for nearly 20 years, he was finally enjoying the ride of a lifetime.

It's not as if the glow of winning the Kentucky Derby has completely worn off, but at least he has gotten back to something resembling business-as-usual.

"This last month has been an absolute whirlwind," said Motion, a 47-year-old native of Cambridge, England, who earned his first Triple Crown victory as a trainer with Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby. "I think things will settle down now, obviously, but I do think it's somewhat of a life-changing experience (to win the Kentucky Derby)."

On Saturday, he'll see if the good fortune he experienced in May will carry over to another track and another surface. Smart Bid, who is also trained by Motion, enters the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs as a 2-1 morning favorite.

Smart Bid, a 5-year-old Pennsylvania-bred horse, will lead an eight-horse field on the 1 3/16-mile turf course at Colonial Downs. Four of the horses, including Smart Bid, are coming off entries in the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, a race that was run on the Kentucky Derby day card.

The Turf Cup is open this year to competitors 3 years old and up, a change from the six previous years of the race when it was restricted to 3-year-olds. With the change, the race has lost its Grade II status. A race must be run under the same conditions for two years before it can be eligible to become a graded stakes.

With finishes in the money in each of his last seven starts dating back to Jan. 2010, six of which were in graded stakes, there's ample reason for Smart Bid to be considered the Turf Cup favorite. Smart Bid, which finished second in the Woodford Reserve, has earned $651,278 in his career.

Each of Smart Bid's last four races have been on turf, and all under jockey Edgar Prado's mount. Prado, who won jockey championships at Colonial Downs in 1997 and '98, will again be atop Smart Bid in the Turf Cup.

"He's one of my favorite jockeys and he obviously has a good rapport with the horse," said Motion, who plans to be at Colonial Downs for the Turf Cup. "That's a big plus for me having him come to ride him.

"My horse seems to be a little bit one-paced. He's a horse that you kind of need to get in gear about a half-mile from home, because he really wants to grind it out. That's kind of his style, and that's why I think this race could suit him, being that it's a longer race."

While Smart Bid has earned his reputation, he could be challenged in the Turf Cup. Moryba, a 5-year-old Brazilian-bred horse which will open at 3-1 odds, finished third by a head in March in the Grade II Munoz Stakes at Fairgrounds behind winner Smart Bid.

Court Vision is a 6-year-old that enters with an impressive resume, having earned more than $2.6 million in his career, which includes a second-place finish in the 2008 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. He'll start the day at 7-2 odds.

Guys Reward comes in with 9-2 odds after the 4-year-old finished third May 28 on the turf in the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. At 7 years old, Rahystrada is the oldest competitor in the field and opens the day with 8-1 odds, but he has two Grade III stakes wins to his credit and finished fourth in the Woodford Reserve.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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