Kentucky Derby 2020 Radar: Ajaaweed strikes for McLaughlin

September 12, 2019 10:01am

The connections of Shadwell Stable and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin came up just short of contending in this year’s Kentucky Derby when Haikal was forced to scratch the Friday before the race.

That same team, however, could be back with Ajaaweed the latest edition to our 2020 Kentucky Derby Radar, which seeks to highlight the type of 2-year-old winners who are fit to jump into points-paying prep races.

The Curlin homebred won his second start Wednesday at Belmont Park, where he earned quite an education en route to a mile in 1:36.44, going on to win by 4 1/4 lengths under jockey Joel Rosario.

Ajaaweed ran in what was just a field of six, but he had plenty of work to do while positioned second-to-last into the turn. The colt ranged up a bit but was stuck in a tough spot, in tight on the rail with two rivals to his outside.

Rosario continued to sit on Ajaaweed, and that left him behind a wall of horses entering the stretch, with the half mile in 46.67 and 3/4 in 1:11.58. Once straightened, Ajaaweed revealed his talent, tipping out and going by with a strong turn of foot.

Rosario needed only a hand ride and a crack of the whip for Ajaaweed to win going away.

McLaughlin, whose best Derby finish came with his first starter, the 2005 runner-up Closing Argument, has more recently saddled a pair of fourth-place finishers in Frosted (2015) and Mohaymen (2016). Both of them ran in Aqueduct’s Remsen Stakes (G2) at age 2, with Mohaymen also taking the Nashua (G3) run in November.

Ajaaweed was making his second start Wednesday in what was the Belmont opener. On debut, he finished fifth when going six furlongs Aug. 10 at Saratoga. Of course, poor efforts first out are often forgivable, and Ajaweed may have been up against a good one in winner Tumbling Sky, while third-place Famished already returned to break his maiden, too.

Also notable from Wednesday’s flight, the 31-1 longshot Forza Di Oro, was 11 1/2 lengths out of it after missing the start. The Bill Mott firster didn’t even enter the picture until they were midway through the turn, ranged up and flattened out just a bit to be second. The Don Alberto Stable runner’s one to watch next time.


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About the Derby Radar

Back for the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail, Horse Racing Nation's Derby Radar seeks to identify promising maiden, allowance and even stakes winners who could target points-paying preps down the line. We'll cover the buzz horses, of course, then using a systematic approach based on past years' Derby contenders identify other talented colts moving up the ladder.

Did we miss one? Email editor Jonathan Lintner ( if you know of a horse that should be on the radar.

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