From thoroughbred racing's world stage to grand marshal of the Lexington St. Patrick's Day Concert and Parade, Kieran McLaughlin evokes popular ideas of the wearin' of the green.
That's only natural, since his parents, Raymond and Judy McLaughlin, immigrated to Lexington from Ireland in the 1950s and have been involved with the parade since its 1980 beginning.
Yet McLaughlin also represents what the Irish Society looks for in a parade marshal. He is a native Kentuckian whose worldwide success has brought favorable attention to Lexington — and the long tradition of Irish in the Bluegrass.
”He's bringing honor to his local community,“ said parade chairman Bill Enright about McLaughlin, a graduate of Lafayette High School. ”He's a local who's been quite successful in the horse business, and the horse industry is important to Central Kentucky.“
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More than 700,000 persons of Irish ancestry live in Kentucky, according to the Bluegrass Irish Society's Web site, www. bluegrassirishsociety.org. The Irish began immigrating to Kentucky even before 1845-46, when a devastating potato famine sent the first great wave of Irish to the United States.
Evidence of Irish settlement in Kentucky is widespread, from the limestone fences the Irish constructed and taught others to build, to Scots-Irish traditions in music and other spheres of Kentucky culture.
”There's a pride in Irish ancestry because so many people in Kentucky have Irish connections, and the idea of honoring your ancestors is good,“ Judy McLaughlin said.
The horses of Kentucky drew Raymond and Judy to Lexington in 1958. But they came not to work hands-on with the animals, as Kieran has done.
Raymond began work here for a horse magazine, writing articles and doing art work. They were drawn to Lexington because a friend, Paddy O'Neill, was a manager at Faraway Farm, where Man o' War had lived until his death in 1947.
Raymond McLaughlin eventually left the horse publication, called Ransom Publishing Agency, and joined IBM, where he worked as editor of the company newspaper. Judy taught radiography at Lexington Community College and raised seven children.
Two of their sons, Kieran and Neil, went into the horse business. Neil works as assistant to Kieran in the latter's training stable, based most of the year in New York.
Kieran was among the group of assistants to trainer D. Wayne Lukas who ran divisions of his stable then went out on their own and achieved individual success. Todd Pletcher, the leading trainer in the United States, was another Lukas graduate.
Kieran worked initially as a jockey agent, then as trainer for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and his brother, Sheikh Hamdan. Beginning in the early 1990s, McLaughlin split his time between the United Arab Emirates and New York.
During that time, he won the $1.5 million Keio Hai Spring Cup with Dumaani in Japan. He also was leading trainer in Dubai four times.
In 2003, McLaughlin returned to the United States, opened a public stable and retained the two sheikhs as his biggest clients.
His greatest triumphs in the United States occurred when he won the 2006 Belmont Stakes with Sheikh Hamdan's Jazil, then the Breeders' Cup Classic with Sheikh Hamdan's Invasor, the eventual Horse of the Year. He capped that off by winning the $6 million Dubai World Cup with Invasor.
McLaughlin is an active advocate for muscular sclerosis; he was diagnosed with the disease in 1998.
But most of all, he is Irish — and the latest in a line of successful Irish chosen as grand marshal for the Lexington St. Patrick's Day parade.
Celebrate the Irish
Here’s a partial list of St. Patrick’s Day events in Central Kentucky. Submit or view additional listings at LexGo.com.
■ The Berea College Convocation program will present Dervish with “traditional Irish music at its best” at 8 p.m. Thursday in Phelps Stokes Chapel. Dervish, a septet from Sligo on the West coast of Ireland, will entertain with a selection of songs, jigs and reels.
■ At the Woodford County Library, 115 North Main Street, Versailles, John Skelton will present “Irish Music Shenanigans” at 6:30 p.m. for children ages 5 to 11. The event is free, but registration is required. Call (859) 873-5191.
■ 10 a.m.: Shamrock Shuffle 3K Race behind Victorian Square at West Short Street and North Broadway in Lexington. Visit www.shamrockshuffle3k.com for details.
■ 11 a.m.: The Celtic group Ceol Cridhe will give a free performance until 2 p.m. at the Kentucky Artisan Center, off Interstate 75 at Exit 77 in Berea. The band plays the traditional music of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales as well as the lesser known Celtic cultures of Cape Breton, Brittany and Nova Scotia. Members play a variety of instruments including fiddle, guitar, Celtic harp, concertina, mandolin and the traditional Irish drum, the bodhrán .
■ 12:30 p.m.: Free Irish music and dance concert in front of the Lexington History Museum, 215 W. Main St.
■ 1 p.m.: Parade in downtown Lexington forms in the Herald-Leader parking lot at East Main Street and Midland Avenue, and proceeds west on Main to Mill Street. Visit www.lexingtonstpatsparade.org. ■ 6 p.m.: The Kiwanis Club will hold a dance for middle school children from Paris and Bourbon County schools, ages 11 to 14, at 6 p.m. at the Paris Lion’s Club Building, Fourth and Pleasant streets. Advance tickets are $2 singles, $4 couples. Tickets at the door are $3 singles, $5 couples. Bring student identification. Call (859) 494-5026
■ 6:30 p.m.: Stonefence Bistro, 732 Main St., Paris, will feature Liam’s Fancy, a Lexington-based acoustic Irish group, and Timmy Mulcahy from County Sligo, Ireland. The cover charge is $10. Call (859) 987-1990
■ 7:30 p.m.: Kentucky McTeggart Irish Dancers will present “Traditions of the Emerald Isle” at the University of Kentucky Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St. Guest performers will be Daniel and Amy Carwile, and John Skelton. Visit www.kyirishdancers.org.
■ The Richmond Area Arts Council will sponsor a Celtic Celebration featuring music by Pale, Stout and Amber at 3 p.m. in the RAAC Performance Hall on Lancaster Avenue in downtown Richmond. The event also will include Will Young on the bagpipe, poetry readings and an Irish history exhibit. Admission is $12, $10 for RAAC members, free for children younger than 12. Call (859) 624 4242.
■ 11 a.m.: Create a craft and dine on Irish stew at the Agricultural Learning Center at City/County Park in Nicholasville. Call the Jessamine County Cooperative Extension Service at (859) 885-4811.
■ 7:30 p.m.: An Dóchas, an Irish band whose name means “The Hope,” will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the UK Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets are $18 to $24. Visit www.singletary tickets.com or call (859) 257-4929.