Fires A Bullet
With an eye on the weather forecast, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin altered the work pattern for Haikal, sending him out today to breeze for the first time since he finished third in the Wood Memorial.
He posted a half-mile drill in 47.59 (1/48).
"We called an audible because a lot of rain is coming tonight, and things are closed on Easter. I didn't want him tearing the barn down, so we worked him today," McLaughlin said. "We'll probably work back next week. We were only scheduled to work once, but we changed our mind. He worked very well this morning."
McLaughlin has sent a total of eight horses to Churchill Downs for the Run for the Roses, the best result of which came when 71-1 longshot Closing Argument ran second in 2005 behind fellow longshot Giacomo. Two of his previous Derby starters were for Shadwell Farm, owner of Haikal, including eventual Belmont Stakes winner Jazil in 2006 and Mohaymen in 2016, both of which ran fourth.
"It's hard to put in words, we just hope we get there," McLaughlin said. "It's great just to be there for Shadwell because I've been with them for 25 years. It's great to hopefully get there. We're still two weeks out. A win would be priceless."
Maragh Looking Forward To It
With his best finish in the Kentucky Derby coming aboard Mucho Macho Man, who ran third in 2011, Rajiv Maragh has high hopes for Haikal.
"Obviously, the Derby is a tough race," said Maragh. "With 20 horses, it makes it a bit challenging for everyone, but it's the most fun you can have riding. All year you look forward to having a chance to riding in the Derby, and when you make it there it's very exciting. It's very difficult to win, so it makes it more rewarding if you can, and thankfully I'll be there this year with Haikal."
Maragh, a native of Kingston, Jamaica with 1,867 career wins through the end of Thursday's card at Aqueduct, is no stranger to winning big races, notching four Breeders' Cup wins. He picked up the mount on Haikal following his debut, and he finished second by a neck on Nov. 10 at Aqueduct.
The tandem of Maragh and Haikal was immediately successful winning their first three starts together including a maiden score, a first stakes win in the Jimmy Winkfield and an impressive rallying effort to win the Gotham Stakes.
"When I got the mount, he came highly regarded," said Maragh. "He finished second in that first race and he's also a well-bred horse, so I was very excited to ride him. He delivered with a strong late kick which was impressive."
Then came the Gotham score, at a one-turn mile, and it provided Haikal an important 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice last out in the Wood Memoria, Haikal trailed badly early but came on with a sustained run to finish third, picking up an additional 20 Derby qualifying points.
"I thought he ran a good race in the Wood," said Maragh. "He lost nothing in defeat. It was actually a very promising run because it was his first start at two turns, and he showed that he could still be effective closing. He answered all the questions we had of him to give him a chance to enter the field, which I think he deserves."
Maragh said winning the Derby for McLaughlin and Shadwell Stable, who are also each in search of their first Derby triumph, would be extra sweet.
"Kiaran is someone who I've always looked up to as a father figure and has always given me good advice and guidance," said Maragh. "It would be great to be able to win our first Derby together along with Shadwell Stable. With Haikal, I really think we have a good chance to do just that."