By Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin enjoyed a super weekend Sept. 15-16, winning the Gazelle Stakes (g. I) with Lear’s Princess at Belmont Park Saturday and the $1 million Woodbine Mile (Can-I) Sunday.
McLaughlin said Sept. 17 that both horses would be pointed to the Oct. 26-27 Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Monmouth Park. Lear’s Princess, who defeated Belmont Stakes (g. I) winner Rags to Riches in the Gazelle, will run in the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I). Shakespeare, who kicked home with a late move to win the Woodbine Mile by a length, will run next in the $2 million Netjets Breeders’ Cup Mile (g. I).
Shakespeare has been a pleasant addition to the McLaughlin barn. The horse was previously trained by Bill Mott and turned over to McLaughlin by Dell Ridge Farm and William Schettine earlier this year. He was sidelined for 21 months with a tendon injury, and when he Shakespeare won an allowance race early in August at Saratoga, it was his first start since the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I).
“He is a very serious horse,” McLaughlin said. “Bill Mott did a great job with him and I was fortunate enough to end up with him.”
McLaughlin said he might be represented by one or possibly two more runners at the Breeders’ Cup. He mentioned graded stakes winner Shakis as a possibility for the Mile; Armonk, the Matron (g. I) runner-up, as a contender for the Juvenile Fillies (g. I); Sabooh, fifth in the Matron, as another possibility for the Juvenile Fillies; and Makderah for the Filly and Mare Turf (g. I).
During the summer, McLaughlin could have felt down on his luck when injuries resulted in the retirements of two of his stable’s stars: last year’s Horse of the Year and 2007 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner, Invasor, and Flashy Bull, the winner of this year’s Stephen Foster Handicap (g. I) at Churchill Downs were retired to stud. Another McLaughlin-trained runner retired this year was Jazil, a half-brother to Rags to Riches and the winner of the 2006 Belmont Stakes.
McLaughlin said dealing with multiple sclerosis, which he was diagnosed with in 1998, has taught him to have a positive outlook through the tough times in his business.
“I never think [negatively],” McLaughlin said. “Dealing with MS has taught me to have a positive outlook. This has been our best year, earnings wise, and things are just going great for me, the staff and the owners.”
McLaughlin said he can sympathize with his friend and rival, Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Rags to Riches. Rags to Riches exited the Gazelle with a hairline fracture in her right front pastern bone and will not race again this year. She is expected to make a full recovery and return to the races in 2008.
“I do feel bad for Todd and his whole team,” McLaughlin said. “It must be so much of relief, though, that it is a minor setback and at least she is fine. It’s a tough thing, though.”