By Joe Kristufek
Home is where the heart is. For the McLaughlin family, two places occupy theirs.
Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of leading Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates (UAE-I) contender Frosted , was at a crossroads in his career back in 1993. Horses were in his blood, but with a young family to support and stability a priority, the Kentucky native had to make change.
"I worked as an assistant to (Hall of fame trainer) D. Wayne Lukas for seven years," McLaughlin said, "My daughter was a year old and I wanted a job where I didn't have to constantly travel, so I became Chris Antley's jockey agent."
McLaughlin was content in his new role, but something was missing.
"I remember having dinner one night with (prominent breeder) Helen Alexander and I asked if she still had a connection to Sheikh Mohammed, She responded by saying that as an agent, I could help them find a nice 2-year-old for the Kentucky Derby. I told her I was a horse trainer and that I would be willing to move to the North Pole to work for the Maktoum family.
"She put me in contact with (former Darley racing manager) Anthony Stroud, who set me up with an interview. I discussed the potential move with my brother Neil, who is also a horseman. He immediately quit his corporate job, and the rest is history."
With support from his wife Letty, McLaughlin uprooted his family and moved to Dubai, where he won three training titles in 10 years.
"My family and I do feel like Dubai is our second home. We all love it here," he said.
The McLaughlin clan returned to the United States in 2003 but relish every opportunity they have to return to their second home.
"I loved growing up in Dubai," McLaughlin's daughter Erin said. "I went to an American school here and made some great friends that I still keep in touch with.
"My brother (Ryan) was very young so he doesn't remember living here as well as me. Different things help trigger our memories though. Simple things trigger memories, like the tunnel with the UAE flag and the bread we used to eat all the time."
Continuing to train high-class horses for both Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his brother Sheikh Hamdan, McLaughlin has competed on Dubai World Cup night on multiple occasions since his departure, most notably winning the world's richest race with Invasor in 2007.
"It's hard to describe the fabulous, priceless feeling of winning the Dubai World Cup with an American-based horse for Sheikh Hamdan at the family's home," McLaughlin said. "They are so passionate about the racing industry and their horses. I got to experience it with my wife and kids.
"I'd put winning the Dubai World Cup right up there with the Kentucky Derby someday. It doesn't get any better than that."
McLaughlin's last appearance in Dubai came in 2009 when Albertus Maximus finished sixth in the Dubai World Cup, but this year he sent several horses with the goal of being well represented on championship Saturday.
"We've been fortunate to win three races at the Dubai World Cup Carnival," McLaughlin said. "Neal and (exercise rider) Rob Massey sacrificed their personal lives to come here with the horses early and it's paying off. We hope to bring horses to support the Carnival every year. There are some great opportunities."
McLaughlin's big gun is Frosted, but he also has live shots with Marking in the Godolphin Mile sponsored by Meydan Sobha (UAE-II), Confrontation in the Dubai Golden Shaheen sponsored by Gulf News (UAE-I), and Lady Shipman in the Al Quoz Sprint sponsored by Meydan Hotels and Hospitality. (UAE-I).
If that isn't enough, McLaughlin also conditions of one of the top contenders for this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in Mohaymen for Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Farm.
"I've had some nice 3-year-olds over the years, Frosted included, but never one that was undefeated going into their final Kentucky Derby prep," McLaughlin said. "It's tough being away from Mohaymen this week, but he's in great hands with Neil's wife, Trish, who has been working with us for 15 years."
With Frosted and friends ready to go for Dubai World Cup Night and Mohaymen a hot horse on the Triple Crown trail—he next runs April 2 in the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (gr. I)—Team McLaughlin appears to be sitting pretty.
"We could have a great year in the next week," McLaughlin said.