Closing Argument Makes A Case

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin got almost what he wanted Monday morning from his Kentucky Derby (gr. I) charge Closing Argument.

"We're looking for five-eighths in 1:01. He's not a fast work horse."
What he got was 1:01 3/5 from the official clocker and had 1:01 2/5 by his own hand.

"He went very well," said the Lexington, Ky.-born conditioner who is saddling his first Derby contender. "He was a little keen early but it is still what we were looking for, and since I learned from D. Wayne Lukas, I'll say it was 'perfect.'"

Shortly after the 8:30 a.m. maintenance break, and under regular exercise rider Danny Wright, the Successful Appeal  colt got another good look at the Churchill Downs track that he first spied in a Sunday gallop over 1 3/8 miles. McLaughlin has tapped primary rider Cornelio Velasquez for the trip on Saturday.

Owned by Philip and Marcia Cohen, and bred in Florida by France and Irwin J. Weiner, Closing Argument's last start resulted in a third-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). Closing Argument worked once at Keeneland after that race, breezing a half-mile in :49.20 last Monday.

"We had an 80-day layoff after the (Feb. 5) Holy Bull (gr. III) since we had to skip the Florida Derby (gr. I)," said the trainer of his colt who missed the signature Gulfstream Park event due to a bruised foot. "He looks like he's improving nicely into Saturday."

McLaughlin said he expects his Holy Bull winner to get away well early in the crowded Derby field.

"He usually breaks well and he likes to lay close. We'll probably have to shuffle back in the pack with Spanish Chestnut in the race up front. The draw will be important for us -- hopefully we'll get four, five, six, or seven."

McLaughlin said being at his first Kentucky Derby is "like living my dream. Since I was 12 years old I wanted to train horses. I worked with Wayne Lukas for seven years so I have a little experience here, but it's nice to be saddling one on my own. Maybe one day I'll have the problem Todd (Pletcher) has with a hundred reporters around him. That might be a nice feeling."

McLaughlin said the schedule the rest of the week for his coppery bay colt would be to walk the shed row on Tuesday, gallop 1 3/8 miles Wednesday, Thusrday, and Friday, and then walk again on race day.