Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has tightened a girth around a lot of good horses, from the time he was an assistant to D. Wayne Lukas and worked with 1986 American Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret and two-time champion Open Mind through the years he was leading trainer in the UAE three times.
Yet he has never seen one quite like his Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) favorite Invasor. One of the reasons why is the son of Candy Stripes has an amazing lung capacity and rarely seems to have to take many deep breaths – even in the toughest competitions.
“He’s very unusual in that he never blows at all,” McLaughlin said on Tuesday. “He can go a mile and a quarter in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and he’s cooled out in five minutes. That’s one thing that makes him very special.
“I tell my brother (assistant trainer) Neal and (sister-in-law and assistant trainer) Trish that we’ve got to soak this up every day as much as we can because this horse is once in a lifetime.”
Barry Downes, an exercise rider who works for McLaughlin and who has ridden Invasor prior to major triumphs in America, echoed the trainer’s assessment.
“He’s just real special,” Downes said of the 2006 American Horse of the Year. “It’s a pleasure to ride him.”
However, the Argentine-bred Invasor can be a bit of a challenge because, like many horses bred and raced in South America, he tends to gallop with his head held high and sometimes turned to the side. Additionally, he’s always thinking about how to keep Downes on his toes.
“He’s very smart—he’s really too smart at times. He tries to get away with things,” Downes said, smiling at the kind of memories that only he and fellow exercise rider Danny Wright possess. And occasionally, “if you’re not paying attention, he might just bite you.”
Since he has come to know the horse so well from his perch in the saddle, Downes has been in a unique position to observe Invasor’s development from a gangly colt to a muscular Adonis of a Thoroughbred. At the same time, he has felt a change in Invasor’s attitude.
“As last year went on, he started getting his confidence up and he started to show off,” Downes related. “He knows what he’s done. He knows he’s good.”