(Edite NYRA report)
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has had an awesome Belmont Park spring meet, consistently winning around 50 percent. For all his success at the current stand, however, McLaughlin has yet to win a stakes race. That could change Saturday when he saddles Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum's State Shinto in the Grade II, $150,000 Bowling Green at 1 3/8 miles on turf.
The Bowling Green will be the highlight of an 11-race card which also features a simulcast of the $500,000 Virginia Derby from Colonial Downs. This race will not be shown on NYRA's live video feed, but will be available on channel 43 of the closed-circuit TV system.
State Shinto, a 7-year-old horse, had started 25 times before making his debut for McLaughlin in a $58,000 allowance here June 25th. He prevailed by a half-length after racing close to the pace throughout the 10-furlong route. Prior to his last race, State Shinto was fifth in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on dirt.
"I was very pleased with his turf race because he's a difficult horse to train and that was the first time for us to run him," McLaughlin said. "He ran very professionally and it was nice to get a confidence boost for the horse."
Most of State Shinto's races over the past two years have come on dirt. Switching him to the turf was a bit of a gamble, but it paid off.
"The distance of the turf race was a mile and a quarter, which is what he wants," McLaughlin said. "It's hard to find an allowance on the dirt at that distance. I'm not sure which surface is best for him because we've only run him once, but a mile and three-eighths is a great distance for him."
State Shinto was fourth in the 2001 Bowling Green when trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
Horses are not allowed to be treated with Lasix in Dubai, where the McLaughlin stable winters. The trainer has stated that being able to use Lasix in America has moved many of his runners up, but that is not the case for State Shinto.
"The Lasix isn't a big issue with him," McLaughlin said. "He ran big because he was going from the Dubai World Cup to a beaten allowance."
McLaughlin has plenty of options available with State Shinto. He said he would like to try the son of Pleasant Colony on dirt again before the end of the year. That could come as early as August 16th in the Grade 2, $300,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap at 10 furlongs on Saturday, August 16th.
"If he happened to win this, we'd probably try him in the Sword Dancer [Grade 1, $500,000, 3 and up, 1 1/2 miles, turf, Saratoga, Aug. 9] instead of a dirt race," the trainer said.
Mansell Stables' Quest Star will try to rebound from a disappointing fifth-place finish in the May 31 Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs. The front-running colt set a comfortable pace, but was not able to kick on and wound up 5 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
"He seemed to have everything his way in that race, but things didn't work out," trainer Elliott Walden said. "He's probably the type of horse that needs more time between races."
Quest Star won consecutive races at Gulfstream Park over the winter, including the Grade II Pan American, with 41 days between starts. In the Louisville, he was returning on less than three weeks' rest.
"We've decided to give him that time between races now," Walden said of the 43 days from the Louisville to the Bowling Green. "He's pretty versatile in terms of distances and courses."
Trainer Randy Schulhofer planned on running Whitmore's Conn and Irish Colonial Saturday, but after the latter popped a splint, he will just saddle Whitmore's Conn, the 2002 Bowling Green winner at 14-1 odds.
In three starts this year, Whitmore's Conn has fared no better than third. He finished fifth beaten better than six lengths by State Shinto on June 25th.
"The pace hurt him last time," said Schulhofer. "A good pace helps. He likes more distance, so a mile and three-eighths should suit him better than a mile and a quarter. He especially likes the turf courses here with the big turns."
George Melillo's Macaw will seek his first American victory in the Bowling Green. Quest Star beat him by three lengths in the Pan American earlier in the year. In his last start, Macaw was a good-closing fourth in the Grade 1 Manhattan, only beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Denon at 45-1.
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel will saddle Juddmonte Farms' Epicentre in the Bowling Green. The four-year-old son of Kris S. is 1-for-2 under Frankel's care, winning a second-level allowance at Keeneland and finishing second in a third-level race here May 21st.
PP, HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Whitmore's Conn, Randy Schulhofer, Jean-Luc Samyn, 116
2. Quest Star, Elliott Walden, Heberto Castillo Jr., 117
3. Esperence, Niall Brennan, Jose Espinoza, 113
4. State Shinto, Kiaran McLaughlin, Richard Migliore, 116
5. Slew Valley, Gary Sciacca, Pablo Fragoso, 114
6. Thompson Rouge, Bill Mott, Aaron Gryder, 115
7. Epicentre, Bobby Frankel, John Velazquez, 114
8. Dawn of the Condor, Gary Sciacca, Tony Farina, 114
9. Gritty Sandie, Jimmy Toner, Jose Santos, 115
10. Macaw, Barclay Tagg, Shaun Bridgmohan, 116