Lexington native Kiaran McLaughlin will have to look to the future for his first Kentucky Derby victory.
The trainer of Kentucky Derby contender Haikal scratched his horse from Saturday’s 145th Run for the Roses on Friday morning because of a hoof abscess, Churchill Downs announced.
“We put shoes back on him this morning and jogged him and he was still not 100 percent,” McLaughlin said in a news release from the track. “... The horse always comes first. He will head home today to Shadwell and live to fight another day.”
Haikal’s defection leaves the Derby with its first field of less than a full 20 horses since 2015, when 18 runners left the starting gate on the First Saturday in May. Barring any additional scratches this year, 19 3-year-olds will take to the track for this year’s race.
Haikal, who was in post position No. 11, is the second contender to pull out of the 2019 Derby since entries were drawn and morning-line odds were set on Tuesday morning.
Omaha Beach, the original 4-1 morning-line favorite, was scratched on Wednesday night because of a breathing problem diagnosed during a scoping after the horse developed a cough.
The new favorite is Bob Baffert trainee Game Winner, whose morning-line odds were reset to 9-2 after Omaha Beach’s departure..
Haikal, who won the Gotham Stakes, finished third in the Wood Memorial and possessed 70 Road to the Kentucky Derby points, was kept off the track Thursday after the development of an abscess on his left front hoof, McLaughlin said. The veteran trainer hoped another day of rest and treatment might clear a path for his horse to remain in the race, but that hope was dashed early Friday morning.
“It’s just terrible timing,” McLaughlin said Thursday. “It’s a situation that will correct itself and is similar to Omaha Beach. You feel bad for the connections. Just bad timing — that’s all.”
McLaughlin has had eight previous Kentucky Derby starters. His best finish was his first when Closing Argument came in second in 2005. McLaughlin also ran Jazil (fourth in 2006), Flashy Bull (14th in 2006), Soldat (11th in 2011), Alpha (12th in 2012), Frosted (fourth in 2015), Mohaymen (4th in 2016) and Enticed (14th in 2018).
Haikal is from Shadwell Stable of Lexington, which is owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, who is Dubai’s deputy ruler and a member of the ruling Maktoum family.
“It’s tough for the whole team, His Highness and everyone involved, especially with being a homebred who was training so well.,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll have to see what else there is now (race-wise) after he recovers.”
Shadwell’s three previous starters were Jazil, Mohaymen and Shagaf, who did not finish in 2016.
Rajiv Maragh was scheduled to ride Haikal, whose five previous races were all run at Aqueduct. Maragh has made five previous Kentucky Derby starts with a best finish of third aboard Mucho Macho Man in 2011.
Kentucky Derby field with odds
1. War of Will (15-1)
2. Tax (20-1)
3. By My Standards (15-1)
4. Gray Magician (50-1)
5. Improbable (5-1)
6. Vekoma (15-1)
7. Maximum Security (8-1)
8. Tacitus (8-1)
9. Plus Que Parfait (30-1)
10. Cutting Humor (30-1)
11. Haikal (Scratched)
12. Omaha Beach (Scratched)
13. Code of Honor (12-1)
14. Win Win Win (12-1)
15. Master Fencer (50-1)
16. Game Winner (9-2)
17. Roadster (5-1)
18. Long Range Toddy (30-1)
19. Spinoff (30-1)
20. Country House (30-1)
21. Bodexpress (30-1)