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The Notebook April 03, 2013


Two-Minute Lick - Graham Motion

Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion is now Kentucky Derby- and Dubai World Cup-winning trainer Graham Motion—thanks, yet again, to Animal Kingdom. We caught up with Graham after he returned stateside. 

Name: Graham Motion

What was going through your mind when it became clear that Animal Kingdom was going to win the world’s richest race? It was very comparable to the whole Derby experience – somewhat disbelief. The last sixteenth of a mile all you’re thinking is, “I hope someone doesn’t come and get him.” It was an extraordinary experience and it’s still hard to take it all in.

Favorite thing about the Dubai World Cup (aside from winning the race!) Seeing my kids on the podium with Sheikh Mohammed – that’s pretty cool. He was extremely gracious.

Who in your family had the most fun at the Dubai World Cup? Definitely my son - he loves Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed even asked him about it!

Can you tell me a little about Animal Kingdom’s groom Memo and his relationship with the Dubai World Cup winner? In fairness, this horse has several grooms- it’s really been a team effort. Memo’s become his travelling groom – he’s worked with me for a long time. He’s a very happy guy, very diligent. Between him and Alice (his travelling exercise rider), they have a great rapport with him. Alice had to learn quickly how to get along with him. Unfortunately, not everybody can travel to Dubai. I sent an email to my crew afterward saying that I wished that they all could have been there.

What’s the best hotel in Dubai? We stayed in the Meydan Hotel attached to the racetrack. It’s amazing – I have pictures from my balcony of the horses leaving the gate for the mile. (Fellow trainer) Dale Romans and I were talking about how we could sit up there on our balconies and train our horses from there.

Where’s the best place to eat in Dubai? After training hours, everyone goes back to the Meydan Hotel for the breakfast. It’s very unique, and it’s more of a social thing than about the food. Of course, the breakfast was also incredible.

What did you do to celebrate after the win? We had a pretty relaxed evening. It was already very late when we got back to the hotel, and I met with a trainer friend of mine and we had a glass of champagne in the bar. It was a draining week, and I was on tenderhooks for most of it.

Who was the first person you called once out of the winner’s circle? The only people I called on Saturday night were my mom and dad when I was walking back to the hotel. I couldn’t begin to respond to all of the texts and tweets. I’m still catching up on them.

Two words to describe the atmosphere at the Dubai World Cup: Extraordinary and overwhelming.

What’s Animal Kingdom’s favorite treat after a win? He’s a big peppermint guy.

Does Animal Kingdom have any funny habits? I wouldn’t say funny, but he’ll do anything for a peppermint!

Now that you’ve won the Dubai World Cup, what else is on your bucket list? I guess it would be winning the race at Ascot if we end up going there. Being an Englishman, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do—to go home with a horse that’s competitive, and I can’t think of another horse who will ever be this competitive. I’d like to win any race over there, and Ascot would certainly do!

What would you like to see more of in Thoroughbred racing? Having just been to Dubai, it’s amazing to see the crowd like that when there’s no betting. I’d like to see more events like that. In Dubai, it’s about the horses and the show. The betting is what makes the world go ‘round, but we can make this sport a spectacle and interesting for everybody. There were 50,000 people there that night just to see the horses and the show.

What would you like to see less of? I’d like to see people stop focusing on the negative. I wish people would appreciate the horses for who they are and what they do for us. Ultimately it’s about the horses, and they’re beautiful animals. They put on a tremendous show for us and we should just appreciate them.

What’s your favorite track? Meydan – how could I not say that?

What would you tell a potential fan about horse racing? It comes back to what I was saying about making a show for the casual fan and making it interesting. It doesn’t have to be all about people hanging around a TV at the track.  It should be about the spectacle.

Who is your favorite Thoroughbred of all time? Presently, my two favorites are Better Talk Now and Animal Kingdom. They have a special place for me because of all they’ve done. Better Talk Now really put me on the map, and Animal Kingdom has achieved so much. Also, Tiznow is my favorite horse outside of my operation. What he did was extraordinary, to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice.

What question have you been asked most often since the Dubai World Cup? Can I have a loan?


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