Kiaran McLaughlin Trainer
Wednesday June 14, 2006
When gritty, little Jazil crossed the finish line a length and-a-quarter ahead of a very stubborn Bluegrass Cat to claim the third jewel of the Triple Crown series at Belmont Park this past Saturday, the win not only stamped his name forever in the record book of Thoroughbred racing, but cast the spotlight squarely on Kiaran McLaughlin -- a trainer whose previous best in the classics had been a second with Closing Argument in Kentucky Derby 131.
Racing's newest "overnight sensation" has actually paid his dues, working for trainers James Burchell, John Hennig (who would become his father-in-law), Dave Kassen, and Tim Muckler before becoming an assistant to D. Wayne Lukas in 1985, where he worked alongside future brother-in-law, Mark Hennig. Kiaran also served as agent for jockey Chris Antley for a brief period, before returning to training as a full-time activity.
McLaughlin was also one of the early adaptors to the modern global nature of Thoroughbred racing, having spent the decade between 1993 and 2003 splitting his time between a position as trainer for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum in Dubai and training from his New York base for Sheikh Mohammed, his brother Sheikh Hamdan (owner of Jazil, as a matter of fact), and Dubai businessman Ahmed al Tayer.
A native of Lexington, Ky., who now lives on Long Island with his wife and two children, McLaughlin is also an inspiration to millions of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers who admire what he has accomplished since being diagnosed in 1998 with MS, for which he takes daily injections to help manage the symptoms and continue such an active lifestyle.
Ozone Park, NY:
Hi, Kiaran. Congrats on the Belmont. You deserve it after last year's Derby. Would you know why Garrett Gomez ran Bob & John in the front and way off the rail? He's been much more effective rating in the past. Congrats again!
Thanks... I think Garrett Gomez was not wanting Bob and John to get too rank - therefore, keeping him wide early. Speed was also very good on the day.
San Francisco, CA:
Congrats to you, Jara, and especially Jazil. There's one closer for the Belmont Stakes! Did he end up being further back than you wanted? I guess it didn't matter. He's the real deal and cute, too! Deborah
Thanks. No, I thought he might even be further back with a :47 half. Cute... the rider or horse? ha ha
What I'd like to know is whether you feel Jazil is better on muddy tracks or on fast tracks? Or, is he simply a horse who can run equally well on either surface as long as he gets an honest pace up front?
Pace is the key - wet or fast.
I just wanted to congratulate you on Jazil's win this past weekend. Hope he continues to move forward for you! Also, do you know if his owners are planning on bringing him back next year?
Thanks. I would think he might run in the Dubai World Cup in March 2007 and keep racing as long as he is doing well.
Lake Forest, IL:
Hi, Kiaran. After watching the way Jazil ran in the Belmont, do you truly, honestly believe with a better Kentucky Derby post position he could of won that race?
No! We had a great trip - Barbaro was just too good on that day.
What a joy to see a "good guy" like you win the Belmont Stakes. Congratulations. I liked your young jockey. Do you think he has the talent to replace one of our treasured retired superstars?
Thank you - Yes, I feel he is a superstar now!! I think Jara is both a talented and patient rider. Hopefully, this win will help launch his career.
I just want to say well done, Kiaran.
Thank you very much....such an exciting day!
Kiaran, aside from breeding, what tells you whether a horse may be suited for sprints or routes or may be better on turf or dirt?
Generally, a stronger, stockier built horse would indicate a sprinter and a lanky, leggier horse would point towards a distance horse. But, that doesn't always hold true, and I tend to go by trial and error until we find the best for each horse. As far as turf or dirt: sometimes their foot shape helps to indicate a preference, but I go more by breeding and trial. I train half of my horses at Saratoga, and I am able to work on the turf there in order to determine if they like it.
Marco Island, FL:
It took a great deal of loyalty to let the young, untested (no more) Mr. Jara ride your horse in the Belmont Stakes. And what a great ride it was! Because of you, (and, of course, the owner) a star rider may have been born. My question is one I've always wanted to ask a trainer. What is the process in selecting a jockey? Big race, small race.
We try to get the best available rider each time we enter a horse. We have our favorites along with our owners' requests. We love Johnny Velazquez, but he is hard to get because of Todd Pletcher. Also, sometimes we use a jockey to work a horse in the morning and, if they get along well, we usually ride them on that particular horse. I know which rider each owner prefers, and I do my best to get that rider.
Huntington Beach, CA:
Jazil was impressive; he was my bet in the Kentucky Derby. If Barbaro was in the Belmont, do you think you still would have won?
We will never know but probably not, unless Barbaro disliked the distance.
Great race!! I had your boy! A quick comment and two questions. Having only seen reruns of his Wood, I was surprised by his turn-of-foot coming into the stretch turn, as well as his tenaciousness and size. He was dwarfed by his lead pony. How many hands is Jazil? Can you talk a little about his personality and quirks? What would you tell a jockey and exercise rider getting on him the first time?
Thanks- 15.3 hands tall (a hand is 4 inches) but he is a light-framed horse. He is a special horse to be around because he does nothing wrong and is a very classy, cool, and smart colt. Exercise riders love getting on him, and they need no extra instructions. He is a real pleasure to train!!
Kiaran, in addition to your splendid job of training Jazil, as a former jockey's agent, you saw the skills that Fernando Jara brought to the saddle. Fernando gave skilled rides in the Gotham, Wood, Lexington, Ky Derby, and Belmont. Do you think those rides, and the recent switch to Randy Romero as his agent, will accelerate is opportunity for more "live" mounts?
I certainly hope so. He is an easier sell even with my owners now, so I would definitely expect his business to pick up.
How does a person with no family relations to racing get started? Usually, trainers' or jockeys' parents or grandparents were involved in horse racing and my family is not.
My family was not, either, and I started out walking horses for $85.00 a week and moved up to be a groom and then foreman and then to assistant trainer. I was an assistant for 10 years before I started training on my own. There must be a race track or farm close by to get started. Hard work and keeping your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut for the first few years is helpful!
Who is the greatest race horse in your mind that you saw or didn't see?
Seattle Slew or Spectacular Bid.
Congratulations on winning the Belmont. I must admit, I'm not a big fan of yours, because I had a nice Exacta Box on last year's Derby of Giacomo and Afleet Alex. My question is: was Jazil trained to run late like he does or did he just develop that running style by himself?
Thanks - He developed that style with Fernando Jara; that is why they are a great team.
Slew City Slew says "JOB WELL DONE!"
Seattle Slew (Karen & Mickey Taylor)
P.S. Lava Man (Slew City Slew) won a Grade I at Hollywood 30 Minutes after the Belmont!
Thank you guys very much. It is nice to hear from so many friends. I hope all is well.
Los Angeles, CA:
A couple of questions:
- What percent of the time do horses who break the gate actually win a race?
- When horses break the gate, don't the stewards usually give the bettors time to change their bets?
- I really don't know the percentage, but it doesn't happen very often. Interestingly, High Finance won his last race before the Belmont after breaking through the gate.
- No, because there are still the remaining horses standing in the gate, and they normally reload the horse that broke through the gate as quickly as possible and start the race.
Thank you for taking your time to speak with us. And congrats to the Lexington native. What are your opinions about possibly running the Triple Crown races on polytrack should Churchill, Pimlico, or Belmont go that route?
I liked training on polytrack at Keeneland, but I haven't raced on it yet. It appears to be a very safe surface, and I look forward to racing on it.
What are your plans for Like Now? My husband and I watched the Lexington Coolmore from the rail and loved the way he held off Bear Character for second. Thank you - we wish you all the best.
Like Now is currently training at Saratoga and doing very well. We are pointing toward July 15-16th at Delaware or the Ohio Derby at Thistledown. We will also nominate to turf stakes and possibly enter main track only.
What's next for Flashy Bull? Do you still hold him in high regards after the Derby?
Flashy Bull is pointing towards a non-winner of 2 allowance race at Belmont on June 22nd. Yes, he is a very nice horse, and he had an impossible trip in the Derby from the 20 post position. I hope his next race will be a confidence builder.
Congratulations! I have been a Jazil fan from the beginning. You have commented that he is like a pet and exceptionally kind. Please share some of his fun personality quirks. I think fans really enjoy knowing the more personal side of training.
He is just a very pleasant horse to be around. He loves personal attention. He likes it when you hug him around his neck and pat his head. He falls asleep in your arms.
Saratoga Springs, NY:
You've been a member of the NY Racing fraternity for several years. As the NYRA franchise goes out to bid, what one recommendation would you have for the new franchise holder even if it turns out to be the current NYRA group?
Getting Polytrack is an absolute MUST.
I keep reading that Jazil gets a 'choice' of meals [two feed tubs]. Can you tell us what goes in the two tubs, lol? How many carrots does he get each day?
One has naked oats and the other one is a complete feed called RaceReady. He gets a few carrots with each. We also give him alfalfa and a hay net.
Congratulations on Saturday. As you elected to keep Jazil out of the Preakness, don't you believe that an adjustment to the Triple Crown schedule is realistic and inevitable? Or, keeping the present schedule, how can the series draw the first thru fourth places Derby horses to Baltimore?
I don't think that there will be a change in the timing due to the tradition of how the races have been run for so many years, although, I would not mind seeing them each three weeks apart. And I also would not mind seeing that five million dollar bonus back while I'm giving out suggestions.
Congratulations, Kiaran, for recent Grade I victories. Can you tell us when Invasor is going to run again?
He will run July 1st in the Suburban at Belmont.
Fort Lauderdale, FL:
Congratulations on your fantastic win in the Belmont. I've read that the Sheik desperately wants to win the Kentucky Derby. You must feel fantastic knowing you have a loyal owner with the resources to have the sort of horses every year who can be competitive in classic races. Do you currently have any especially promising 2yo colts for the Sheik or other owners?
Yeah, we have got a nice Gone West out of the Oaks winner Keeper Hill for Shadwell. And we also have Spun Sugar's full brother who looks to be promising. We've got a quite a few for some other owners as well that look exciting. We should have some fun with a bunch next year.
Do you think his small stature will negatively impact Jazil's initial stud fee?
Hopefully, we will send him there with a good enough race record for it not to matter. Plus, Northern Dancer wasn't that big, either.
Congratulations Kiaran on a great win. Hopefully, it was worth the wait. Closing Argument also sends his best from down here on the farm. My question is this, do you think the success of Shadwell/Darley horses in the Triple Crown this year has put to rest the desire to train and prep a Classic winner in Dubai, or is that something that we could still see happen?
No, I don't think it has quieted it at all. I'm sure that Sheikh Mohammed would still love to try and win the Derby from Dubai, and I feel as though he can do it with the right horse.
Kiaran, Congratulations on a job well done. Nice guys do finish first--sometimes. How does your Multiple Sclerosis affect your ability to do your job? Do you see yourself as an inspiration to others with MS?
Thank you for the kind words. It appears that the MS has helped me do my job better with the way the stable is going right now. Although, sometimes I let my assistants saddle the tougher horses. Hopefully, if my story can help someone else cope with their situation more positively, then that would be great.
Port Huron, MI:
When did you know Jazil might be one of the special ones? Also, what kind of personality traits did Jazil have that led you to believe he might be able to handle the rigors of the Triple Crown trail?
Probably when he ran second behind Steppenwolfer in his second maiden race we thought we had something that could turn out to be special. Secondly, he is just a really cool, calm, classy, collected, etc. horse to be around and that is what made us think he would be able to handle the rigors of the Triple Crown. He just does everything right which makes it easy on me.
San Diego, CA:
First, I'd like to congratulate you on your Belmont victory. The little horse seems to have a big heart. Is the Breeders' Cup part of the future plans for Jazil?
Thanks. Yes, we would love for that to be a part of his future plans. We know he likes the track and distance.
How many horses do you have under your care? Do you feel there is a limit to the number of horses a trainer should take on?
I have about 80 horses right now. Personally for me, I would like to just stay with two divisions like I currently have. Top help is hard to come by.
You had a gutsy son of Seeking the Gold win first time out in New York on Kentucky Derby day (at 25-1, no less). Apologies for not being able to recall the name, but he caught the eye with his strong closing run. How has he come out of that race and when should we expect to see him again?
Another Look surprised us all on that day. He ran back last Friday in an A other than and finished fifth. We may try him back on the grass as he is out of a Nashwan mare.
New York, NY:
Kiaran - I think the best way to celebrate a Belmont Stakes win would be to indulge in a slice of New York Cheesecake. What is your favorite kind of cheesecake?
Personally, I like Key Lime Pie but a chocolate/peanut butter one from the Cheesecake Factory is quite nice, as well.
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