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McLaughlin in Derby Pursuit With Full Hand
Updated - 2/19/2015

By Karen M. Johnson

When trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was plotting his course to the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), he did so with a horse who he believed represented his first proper chance of winning the race.

But two weeks before the Derby, Cairo Prince  , the smashing winner of the Miller Lite Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) and an early-spring favorite to win the first leg of the Triple Crown, was declared a non-starter with a leg injury. As it turned out, Cairo Prince did not race again and was retired last fall.

McLaughlin, a former D. Wayne Lukas assistant who grew up near Lexington, has started five horses in the Derby, all longshots. He came tantalizingly close to winning with his initial starter, the 71-1 Closing Argument, who ran second to Giacomo in 2005.

 

Cairo Prince
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull Stakes.
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"It probably was the biggest disappointment of my career, not getting to the Derby with Cairo Prince," said McLaughlin, who began training in 1993. "He had everything you looked for in a horse going into the Kentucky Derby. Furthermore, it was so difficult because I had brought Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed in as a partner on Cairo Prince, after the Holy Bull. I had worked for Godolphin for 21 years, and because of that, I took it a little more personally and to heart when the horse got hurt."

Redemption looms this year in the form of two Godolphin homebreds, Frosted and Imperia.

On Feb. 21, the McLaughlin-trained colts will take divergent paths in search of Derby points. Frosted, the runner-up in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) on Jan. 24, starts in the Besilu Stable's Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. Imperia, the winner of the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park and runner-up in his dirt debut in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, makes his first start of 2015 in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

For Godolphin, McLaughlin has saddled one Derby starter, Alpha  , who finished 12th in 2012. Dating back to 1999, horses carrying Godolpin's ubiquitous royal blue silks have been stymied on the first Saturday in May. The best finish from the eight runners the juggernaut operation has sent to Churchill Downs came from China Visit, who was sixth in 2000.

"I know working with Godolphin and living in Dubai for 10 years, that Sheikh Mohammed is as passionate an owner as there is in the world," McLaughlin said. "He's given so much effort trying to be a top owner and to win top races around the world, and the Kentucky Derby is just one that has eluded him so far. But, hopefully, one day he will get it. I hope I'm a part of it. That would be fabulous. That Frosted and Imperia are both homebreds for Godolphin makes it an exciting thought."

Also in the Derby hunt for McLaughlin are Stonestreet Stables' Ocean Knight, who is undefeated in two starts after winning the Jan. 31 Sam F. Davis (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs, and Cheyenne Stables' Classy Class, the third-place finisher in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack on Feb. 7.

When trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was plotting his course to the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), he did so with a horse who he believed represented his first proper chance of winning the race.

But two weeks before the Derby, Cairo Prince  , the smashing winner of the Miller Lite Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) and an early-spring favorite to win the first leg of the Triple Crown, was declared a non-starter with a leg injury. As it turned out, Cairo Prince did not race again and was retired last fall.

McLaughlin, a former D. Wayne Lukas assistant who grew up near Lexington, has started five horses in the Derby, all longshots. He came tantalizingly close to winning with his initial starter, the 71-1 Closing Argument, who ran second to Giacomo in 2005.

This year, the 54-year-old McLaughlin possesses strength in numbers and is currently navigating the Derby prep scene with four horses: Classy Class, Frosted, Imperia, and Ocean Knight.

Cairo Prince
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King
Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull Stakes.
Order This Photo

"It probably was the biggest disappointment of my career, not getting to the Derby with Cairo Prince," said McLaughlin, who began training in 1993. "He had everything you looked for in a horse going into the Kentucky Derby. Furthermore, it was so difficult because I had brought Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed in as a partner on Cairo Prince, after the Holy Bull. I had worked for Godolphin for 21 years, and because of that, I took it a little more personally and to heart when the horse got hurt."

Redemption looms this year in the form of two Godolphin homebreds, Frosted and Imperia.

On Feb. 21, the McLaughlin-trained colts will take divergent paths in search of Derby points. Frosted, the runner-up in the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) on Jan. 24, starts in the Besilu Stable's Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park. Imperia, the winner of the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park and runner-up in his dirt debut in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs, makes his first start of 2015 in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

For Godolphin, McLaughlin has saddled one Derby starter, Alpha  , who finished 12th in 2012. Dating back to 1999, horses carrying Godolpin's ubiquitous royal blue silks have been stymied on the first Saturday in May. The best finish from the eight runners the juggernaut operation has sent to Churchill Downs came from China Visit, who was sixth in 2000.

"I know working with Godolphin and living in Dubai for 10 years, that Sheikh Mohammed is as passionate an owner as there is in the world," McLaughlin said. "He's given so much effort trying to be a top owner and to win top races around the world, and the Kentucky Derby is just one that has eluded him so far. But, hopefully, one day he will get it. I hope I'm a part of it. That would be fabulous. That Frosted and Imperia are both homebreds for Godolphin makes it an exciting thought."

Also in the Derby hunt for McLaughlin are Stonestreet Stables' Ocean Knight, who is undefeated in two starts after winning the Jan. 31 Sam F. Davis (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs, and Cheyenne Stables' Classy Class, the third-place finisher in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack on Feb. 7.

Ocean Knight
Photo: SV Photography
Ocean Knight after winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Ocean Knight will make his next start March 7, either in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct or the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II). His course of action will depend upon where the Todd Pletcher-trained Carpe Diem, who is co-owned by Stonestreet Stables, runs. Stonestreet wishes to keep the horses separate, and Carpe Diem is currently slated to compete in the Tampa Bay Derby.

McLaughlin has a few targets in mind for Classy Class as far as a next start is concerned, including the Gotham and Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park March 14, or an allowance race.

"We haven't got to the Derby yet with a good chance to win, and we're still not there. We need Derby points," McLaughlin said. "I will know more, obviously, in mid-April. But this year, at this particular point in time, I'm happy, and couldn't be feeling better with where we are at."

Since saddling his first winner, Lead The Dance, at Jebel Ali Racecourse in Dubai in 1993, most of McLaughlin's biggest training triumphs have come with horses owned by the United Arab Emirates ruling family, the Maktoums.

For Shadwell Stable, he trained 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor  , the winner of that year's Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I), and the 2007 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). Shadwell's Jazil won the 2006 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), providing both owner and trainer with their first American classic win. McLaughlin also conditioned Shadwell homebred Lahudood to win the 2007 Emirate Airlines Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), en route to a divisional title.

Through all those successes, McLaughlin was living with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease of the central nervous system which he was diagnosed with in October of 1998. There is no cure for MS, and McLaughlin manages it with daily medication. Among the symptoms is loss of balance and coordination, which has led to a couple of small concessions on McLaughlin's part.

"I don't move as well, so I don't saddle any of the horses in the afternoon," said McLaughlin, who is aided by his brother, Neal, and by assistant trainer Art Magnuson. "I used to golf often and now I don't do that anymore. Other than that, I get up every morning and carry on as normal."

McLaughlin, who has two children, Erin, 23, and Ryan, 20, with his wife of 31 years, Letty, said when he first found out he had MS, the news shook him to the core.

"I've always been an upbeat person, and to think back to that odd time in October of 1998, when I went into a depression for 30 days... I didn't want to get up from the couch," McLaughlin recalled. "I had two small children, and the unknown of what was going to happen to me was very scary."

McLaughlin's positive-thinking nature eventually kicked in, and he's come to terms with living with MS.

"At the time of my diagnosis, I asked the man upstairs for five good years, and now I'm on my fourth time renegotiating with him for five more," he said with a laugh. "I feel like I have MS, but it doesn't have me."


 
Imperia gets favorite’s role for Risen Star Stakes
Updated - 2/18/2015

The Sports Network February 18, 2015

 

New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Imperia, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has been made the 7-2 morning line favorite for Saturday's $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

The 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, with a 10-horse field of 3-year-olds, is the final local prep for the 102nd running of the $750,000 Louisiana Derby on March 28. The winning 3-year-old earns 50 points toward a place in the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Owned by Godolphin Racing, Imperia will make his first start of the year from post 5 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard the colt for the first time.

"I spoke with Jimmy Bell, Godolphin's racing manager, and early on we decided that Fair Grounds would suit him well," said McLaughlin. "At Gulfstream (Park) and in New York (at Aqueduct), you need to be forwardly placed. He's a horse who likes to come from well back. We're hoping he runs well so we can come back and run in the ($750,000) Louisiana Derby (Mar. 28)."

Imperia began his career on the turf with a second-place finish at Saratoga. He won for the first time on grass in Belmont Park's Pilgrim Stakes his second time out last September. The colt was a disappointing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 31. In his final start as a 2-year- old, Imperia finished second to El Kabeir in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on dirt at Churchill Downs. He has earned $183,404.

"We hope he's a dirt horse," McLaughlin said. "He seems to like it, trains well on it and his race at Churchill was better than his previous races based on numbers. We hope he stays on it and never runs on grass again, but if he winds up being better on grass we will look at races like the Secretariat (Stakes) this summer."

Leaving from the far outside post will be Ken and Sarah Ramsey's International Star, the 9-2 second pick. The colt, trained by Mike Maker, will again be ridden by Miguel Mena.

International Star began the season with a 2 1/2-length win in Fair Grounds' Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 17.

"We expected a big race - maybe not that big - but he was coming into the race great," Maker said about the Lecomte effort.

International Star, a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, won the Grey Stakes at Woodbine last October. He had begun his 2-year-old campaign with a win over Belmont Park's turf course followed with a second in both Belmont's Rockville Center Stakes on dirt and Saratoga's With Anticipation on the turf.

The colt was ninth, just 3 1/4 lengths off the winner, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 31. He has won three of seven starts for $320,979.

Three runners are listed at 5-1 in the program: Lecomte runner-up War Story, Tiznow R J and J S Bach.

Here is the field for the Risen Star in post position order: St. Joe Bay, Florent Geroux, 12-1; Tiznow R J, Robby Albarado, 5-1; Bluff, Kerwin Clark, 12-1; J S Bach, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Imperia, Mike Smith, 7-2; War Story, Kent Desormeaux, 5-1; Hero of Humor, Antioco Murgia, 30-1; Keen Ice, James Graham, 8-1; Big Big Easy, Richard Eramia, 12-1 and International Star, Miguel Mena, 9-2

Post time for the Risen Star will be approximately 6:24 p.m. ET.


Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2015/02/18/3495826_imperia-gets-favorites-role-for.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

 

Divided Attention Draws Off to Win Ladies ’Cap
Updated - 2/7/2015
Divided Attention swept to the front and pulled away from multiple Grade 1 winner Belle Gallantey in the stretch to win the $100,000 Ladies Handicap on Friday at Aqueduct Racetrack, giving jockey Dylan Davis his first stakes victory on the New York Racing Association circuit.

Divided Attention, a late addition to the field when the race was redrawn on Sunday, broke well and settled in mid-pack as her stablemate Penwith led the field through honest splits of 24.14 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 49.26 for the half over a tiring Aqueduct inner track.

As the field of older fillies and mares turned for home, Davis guided his mount into the clear, where she took off in earnest after Belle Gallantey, who had assumed control of the lead from a tiring Penwith. Divided Attention confronted Belle Gallantey shortly thereafter in upper stretch, and surged by the Grade 1 Beldame winner and on to a 5 ½-length victory.

"It was a great trip," said Davis, son of retired jockey Robbie Davis, a NYRA mainstay. "I wanted her to sit back right behind the pace a little bit, a little closer than the last time [I rode her]. She responded well, she was a little aggressive on the first turn but I got her to settle down. On the second turn she got a little more aggressive. No one else was pressuring the pace, so I just let her out to the three-path and we just kept on with it."

Divided Attention rewarded trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Godolphin Racing, who had initially intended to run only Penwith in the Ladies but called an audible the morning of the race.

"Last week, we were going to run [only] Penwith, thinking maybe we'd split them up," said Arthur Magnuson, assistant to McLaughlin. "This week we thought we'd put them in, in case something happened, and it was only this morning that Kiaran and Jimmy [Bell] got to talking and thought, 'Why not? Let's not be too clever and split them up, just run.' It worked out and makes us look pretty smart. We just wanted to run two fillies doing well. They both looked good early. It was a little disappointing with Penwith. She ran very big last time and maybe she reacted a little."

Divided Attention completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:55.00. The 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy returned $4.40 on a $2 win wager and bumped her bankroll to $255,900.

Although not a winner, Belle Gallantey rebounded off a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Affectionately by finishing second, 3 ½ lengths in front of Moment In Dixie.

Shayjolie, Penwith, and Holiday's Jewel completed the order of finish.

Source: NYRA Communications
Derby Watch: This time McLaughlin has the numbers
Updated - 2/4/2015
 

Both Kiaran McLaughlin and Todd Pletcher came up under D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer who has the most starters in the history of the Kentucky Derby. But the approaches McLaughlin and Pletcher have taken toward the Derby have differed sharply.

Pletcher is now up to second, behind only Lukas, in overall number of Derby starters, 47-40. McLaughlin has had just five starters.

Yet as the countdown begins toward the 141st Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 2, it is McLaughlin who holds one of the strongest hands. Pletcher, who leads all trainers in Triple Crown nominees this year with 34, landed four of the 20 runners on this year’s inaugural Daily Racing Form Derby Watch. But McLaughlin, who has only eight of his 3-year-olds nominated to the Triple Crown, also finds four of his runners in the top 20.

“We’ve never had anywhere close to what we have at this point this year,” McLaughlin said by phone from Florida, where he is based in the winter. “I feel like Todd Pletcher.”

:: DERBY WATCH: Top 20 list | Kentucky Derby: Who's hot, who's not

Lukas has won the Derby four times. Pletcher has won the Derby once. McLaughlin has yet to win it. He came closest with his first starter, Closing Argument, who was second in 2005.

McLaughlin’s four Derby Watch runners are Classy Class, Frosted, Imperia, and Ocean Knight.

Ocean Knight raced most recently, capturing the Sam F. Davis Stakes last Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs while making only the second start of his career. The Sam F. Davis followed a win sprinting on the inner track at Aqueduct. Ocean Knight had an outside post in the Sam F. Davis and was forced to race wide but still got up to winwith a 93 Beyer Figure.

“What did I think of the race? Wow,” McLaughlin said. “As long as I’ve been training, I haven’t had a horse get a 6 on the Ragozins first time, and to go from that to a two-turn race, drawn post 11, and race as wide as he did, wow.”

Regarding the wide trip in the 1 1/16-mile race, McLaughlin joked, “I guess we found out he can go a mile and a quarter,” referring to the Derby distance.

Ocean Knight was ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., who is assigned to three of McLaughlin’s Derby Watch runners. The lone exception is Imperia, who will be ridden by Mike Smith in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 21 only because Ortiz is tied up with Frosted the same day in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream.

“I told Irad he can’t be too clever,” McLaughlin said of the ride aboard Ocean Knight in the Sam F. Davis. “If you’re out there in the clear and you have to lose ground, fine. Don’t worry, you’re on the best horse.”

McLaughlin said Ocean Knight will return to Tampa Bay Downs for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 7.

“The timing works well,” he said. “It’s five weeks to his next race, and then it would be four weeks to the Wood Memorial or the Blue Grass.”

Next up for McLaughlin will be Classy Class, who is scheduled to run Saturday in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, assuming the weather cooperates. Classy Classy, like Ocean Knight, won his debut, but he could only manage to finish fourth in his second start, the Remsen Stakes. This will be his first start since then.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

“He was very impressive in his first start,” McLaughlin said. “In his second start, he caught a speed-biased track, but it was a very good effort.”

McLaughlin said he was originally pointing Classy Class for the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct last month, but a foot problem derailed those plans.

“He pulled a shoe off behind and broke off part of the wall,” McLaughlin said. “He was lame behind for a few days, so we had to miss the race. It was just bad timing. But we’ve put three good works into him since. He’s ready to go now.”

Frosted was second in the Remsen, then last month finished second in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream.

Imperia has not raced since finishing second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in November. That race was won by El Kabeir, who came back to take the Jerome and is the likely favorite in the Withers.

The Withers is one of two races Saturday offering points toward the Kentucky Derby under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the Derby field should more than the maximum of 20 horses enter. The other is the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, scheduled to include Derby Watch members Dortmund and Firing Line, both making their first start since finishing one-two in the Los Alamitos Futurity in December. Both the Withers and Lewis are at 1 1/16 miles.

Dortmund is the co-third choice at 12-1 on the Derby Watch future line set by Mike Watchmaker, DRF ’s national handicapper. Texas Red, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is the tepid favorite on Watchmaker’s line at 8-1, with Holy Bull winner Upstart next at 10-1. The other 12-1 shots are American Pharoah, the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male, and Carpe Diem, the BC Juvenile runner-up.

Of McLaughlin’s four runners, three – Frosted, Imperia, and Ocean Knight – are at 20-1 on Watchmaker’s line, with Classy Class at 30-1.

Curlin’s Ocean Knight Duels His Way to Victory in Davis
Updated - 2/1/2015
Ocean Knight--a smart debut winner with a 93 Beyer going six furlongs at the Big A Dec. 13 (video)-- overcame a wide trip to deliver as the chalk in his two-turn debut here. The bay fired a four-furlong bullet in :48 1/5 (1/28) at Palm Meadows Jan. 23 and retained the services of New York-based Irad Ortiz Jr. Hung out wide in post 11, Ocean Knight took the first turn parked four wide. He settled in a perfect spot just off the leaders on the outside, began to wind up while three deep on the turn for home and kept on coming in the stretch to wear down the very game longshot runner-up, who enjoyed a clear lead in the lane. Winning owner Stonestreet Stables, of course, also campaigned Ocean Knight’s two-time Horse of the Year sire. "We knew he was fast," winning owner Barbara Banke said. "He had been hauling everything else around the training center all year long. [On the turn for home], we thought he had it. He was clear, but he was wide and it’s tough to run down speed." She continued, "Any time I can race a Curlin like this one, I would. They’re sturdy and they’re fast. It does bring back memories." Assistant trainer Neal McLaughlin added that the GII Tampa Bay Derby Mar. 7 may be next for the winner. Ocean Knight brought $320,000 at the OBSMAR sale after breezing a quarter mile in a bullet :20 3/5. He is the first foal from three-time winner Ocean Goddess, who was campaigned by the winning breeder Thor-bred Stables. After slipping in 2013, she was bred to Tiznow in 2014.
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