He may not have a Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner or a Horse of the Year in his barn at this point, but Kiaran McLaughlin has secured the position every trainer would like to hold leading up to the Oct. 26-27 Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Monmouth Park. The trainer’s string shows definite potential for greatness, and if all goes well this weekend, he’ll be shipping to New Jersey with a barn full of able contenders.
The most intriguing scenario coming out of McLaughlin’s barn this year was the return of Shakespeare, the brilliant 6-year-old son of Theatricalwho was unbeaten until he suffered a tendon injury in the 2005 running of the John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT). That injury cost him 21 months on the sidelines, but a slow and steady return to training worked wonders for the turf horse. Two starts after his May 26 comeback work, Shakespeare is again unbeaten and has added the $1-million (CAN) Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) to his resume Sept. 16.
In an Oct. 2 teleconference hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, McLaughlin called the horse one of his most exciting contenders, and said he’s training well en route to the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT).
McLaughlin also made much ado about another runner – West Point Stables’ Lear’s Princess, who trumped Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches in the Sept. 15 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old daughter of Lear Fan is headed for the Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I).
“She’s the one who would stand our best chance on any given day,” the trainer said. “She’s been training great.”
A recent surprise from McLaughlin’s string was the gutsy performance of Flower Bowl (gr. I) winner Lahudood, who paid $44.40 to win and earned a ticket to the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT) with her performance. McLaughlin said Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stable will pay the $180,000 fee to supplement the 4-year-old daughter of Singspeil (IRE) to the race.
This weekend, McLaughlin saddles five potential Breeders’ Cup contenders to their final preps at three tracks.
First, Praying For Cash looks to rebound from an uncharacteristic ninth-place finish in the Sept. 1 Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont when he tackles the 1 1/8-mile Meadowlands Cup at the Meadowlands Oct. 5.
“He was just outsprinted in the Forego and the race didn’t shape up for us very well,” McLaughlin said of the 4-year-old son of Songandaprayer. “He was down on the inside and I just don’t think that’s the right spot for him, I think he’d rather have things out in the clear. The distance is what we like about the race at the Meadowlands We don’t think he really wants to sprint that much. We thought we’d give the longer race a try and if he jumps up real well, we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.”
At Belmont Oct. 6, McLaughlin will saddle 2-year-olds Armonk and Sabooh to posts in the 1-mile Frizette (gr. I). The daughters of Mizzen Mast and A.P. Indy finished second and fifth in the Sept. 15 Matron (gr. II) going seven furlongs. Meanwhile, Daaher will take on the 1 1/8-mile Jamaica Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIT).
“Armonk is very talented,” said the trainer. “In her first start she was unlucky; she broke from the one hole and jumped up in the air and finished third. In the Matron, she ran very well to be second and I think she’s going to run very well Saturday. Sabooh just ran a sub-par race in the Matron.
"She’s trained very well since then, and I think the further she goes, the better. I think she’ll like the mile. She’s been training great, so we’ll give it another try.”
3-year-old Daaher, winner of a 1 1/8-mile allowance race Aug. 26 at Saratoga, will step back up in company after third- and fourth-place finishes in the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Queen’s Plate Stakes.
“We just felt like he was better than he was showing,” said McLaughlin, who put the son of Awesome Again in blinkers for the allowance race. “I wish we’d put blinkers on him for the Queen’s Plate. I think he’d have won. He’s been showing a different dimension since we put the blinkers on.”
Finally at Keeneland, 7-year-old Shakis (an impressive winner of the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga) goes postward in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT).
“We’re quite confident in him,” the trainer said of the son of Machiavellian. “It’s a tough field and tough horses to race against, but he should run well and we’re looking forward to running a horse owned by Shadwell in the Shadwell Turf Mile.”
McLaughlin celebrated a banner year in 2006 as the trainer of Belmont Stakes winner Jazil and Horse of the Year Invasor. This year he ranks third in the nation among trainers in earnings with $10,011,199 and a 23% win rate.