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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

McLaughlin Counting Up the Furlongs for Haikal


Wood Memorial Next

By Dick Downey

Kiaran McLaughlin was all good the day after Haikal's come-from-behind win of the one mile Gotham Stakes.
"He looks great," said McLaughlin. "He appears to have come out of the race well and I have to say that Joe Lee and our team in New York have done a great job with him."

The trainer, who was at his winter base in Florida yesterday, said Haikal will definitely go forward on the Derby Trail in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, where the colt has won three straight races.
"He's won at six, he's won at seven, and now he's won at eight, so we're going to give him a shot at nine," said McLaughlin. "I'll definitely be in town for that race."
Sent off as the 4-1 second-choice in the Gotham, Haikal stayed true to his late running style under Rajiv Maragh. In seventh position in the field of eight during the opening part of the race, he rallied from the outside in the final furlong to run down three competitors to earn a one-length victory.
"On paper it looked like he would benefit from a lot of pace in the race," said McLaughlin. "I'm just happy when they opened the gate, that stayed true to form. They really went fast up front going a half in 44 and change. That really benefited us, and Rajiv gave him the perfect ride."
Mind Control
Mind Control, who won the Jerome Stakes on New Year's Day to earn 10 Kentucky Derby points, rallied up the rail to finish second in the Gotham, earning an additional 20 points, putting him in a tie for fifth in the points standings with Game Winner.
"Moving forward, going two turns in the Wood is the next logical spot," said trainer Greg Sacco. "He has the tactical speed to be forwardly placed, and we know he doesn't need the lead. I think he'll be able to settle, and if it's a paceless race he can make it. What we learned yesterday is a real big plus for Mind Control."
"We were really proud of him," added Sacco. "He ran a dynamite race and Kiaran's horse ran an exceptional race. It was a fun race to watch and we're really happy with how he ran."

After winning the Hopeful and the Jerome with front-running performances, Sacco said his team worked hard in the morning to teach the talented colt to settle and make one run, and they recruited John Velazquez to take the return mount.
"The horse showed a new dimension yesterday. We had trained him in the morning behind horses, let him take dirt, and then finish up," said Sacco. "Yesterday, he really passed a test doing that. It was a hot pace. We took a lot of dirt. Johnny said he came up to the Baffert horse and Instagrand and he forged ahead of them, but this horse just does what he has to do. He doesn't really draw off. He had those two horses, but Mike Smith (aboard Much Better) was out in the middle of the track because it was the best part of the track the second half of the day.
"Castellano (aboard Instagrand) knows this track as good as anyone, and they were both out in the middle of the track, so we had to take the rail," continued Sacco. "It was the deepest part of the track the second half of the day."
Sacco said he was proud of his horse for passing a maturity test.
"We were really proud he sat off the pace and came up the rail. He had the other two horses beat, but he didn't see Haikal coming. Not to take anything away from Kiaran's horse, he flew the last part and ran a great race," said Sacco.
"He came out of the race great. He ate up everything and walked good. We're really happy with how he bounced out of the race," the trainer said.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he believes Instagrand made a creditable return to action from an August layoff with a third-place effort in the Gotham, picking up 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

The Gotham was the first time Instagrand wasn't in the lead during a race.
"It was a very good effort off the long layoff. We're very pleased," said Hollendorfer. "It showed a different dimension, and that makes it all the much better. He was fine this morning. His legs were cold, and he jogged down the road good."
A $1.2 million purchase at Fasig-Tipton's 2018 The Gulfstream Sale, Instagrand will head back to California while Hollendorfer considers his next stop on the Kentucky Derby trail.
"We're nominated all over the country, so we'll figure it out. I think he should be considered for being on the Derby trail," said Hollendorfer.


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