Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is no stranger to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. The 45-year-old Lexington native was a long-time assistant to five-time Derby winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas and last year sent out 71-1 Closing Argument, a surprise runner-up behind Giacomo. This year, the laid-back Kentuckian hopefully has two horses for this year's Run for the Roses in Jazil and Flashy Bull.
Flashy Bull, a son of Holy Bull
owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, is currently on the outside looking in at No. 21 on the Derby list by graded stakes earnings. Entry into the Derby, which is limited to 20 starters, is based on earnings in graded stakes. Entries for the Derby will be taken Wednesday morning.
Jazil, on the other hand, is No. 18 on the list with $150,000 in graded earnings thanks to a late-running, runner-up performance behind Bob and John in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 8. Prior to that, the son of Seeking the Gold
was seventh in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II).
While both runners may be a little light on earnings, both are battle-tested in stakes company. However, both are eligible for the non-winner's of one "other than" condition. McLaughlin was quick to point out Sunday morning that so was Giacomo this time last year.
Jazil (pronounced JAZZ-il) is owned by Sheikh Hamden's Shadwell Stable and was bred in Kentucky by Skara Glen Stables. He is out of the grade II-winning Deputy Minster mare Better Than Honour. Better Than Honour is out of Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Blush With Pride.
Like seemingly every other Derby contenders, both Jazil and Flashy Bull got in their final works Saturday morning, both getting five furlongs in 1:00 2/5.
"They did it very well," McLaughlin said outside Barn 42. "Jazil wouldn't blow out a match when he came back. He's had some time between starts so he needed to do a little something."
McLaughlin has hopes of Jazil doing more than a little something in Saturday's Derby. The late runner figures to have plenty of pace to set up a strong stretch run.
"They will go the first half-mile in less than :46, I promise you," McLaughlin opined about the Derby pace scenario. "Jazil is going to finish in front of a whole lot of them because he's going to be flying late."
Assessing the early frontrunners in the race, McLauglin said "It's the banging around and the jockeying for position that hurts the speed horses. When you go into the first turn and seven of them have the same idea...you could really have a rough first turn.
"Post position is going to be very important for a lot of horses; not mine as much as a whole lot of other horses," he said. "Jazil comes from last, so post won't matter.
"It's American racing: Speed, speed, speed. The problem is that the ones behind the leader are coming home slower than he is because they're chasing that speed. That's the way American racing is. Everything is speed. They go the first three-quarters in 1:10 and slow down. Hopefully Jazil can pick up the pieces.
McLaughlin brings an international slant to his thoughts on American racing. After working with Lukas in the heyday of the late '80s and early '90s and a stint as an agent for jockey Chris Antley, McLaughlin packed his bags for Dubai, where he had a very successful career training for the Royal Family in both the United Arab Emirates and the United States. He went out on his own three years ago, and has retained Sheikh Hamden as a client.
And he was under the Twin Spires this time last year with Closing Argument.
"We wouldn't have changed anything from last year," McLaughlin said. "We were happy to run second because he ran his race. It was, just, 'dang, that was the Kentucky Derby.' We've run second in the Derby; second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; second in the Remsen; we were second in the Lexington. We're getting a little tired of running second. I feel like we have more seconds than a watch.
"It says a lot about Team McLaughlin that we can get a horse here," he said. "It's important that owners know that we can do it. Whether we win or lose, two years in a row of being here is important."