Haikal, Tax get the Kentucky Derby 2019 green light

NYRA Press Office
April 07, 2019 03:09pm
Haikal, Tax get the Kentucky Derby 2019 green light
Photo: Joe Labozzetta/NYRA
Following a late-closing third-place effort in the Wood Memorial (G2), Shadwell Stable's Haikal will more than likely ship to Louisville for the 2019 Kentucky Derby for his next start, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Sunday.

The sophomore son of Daaher was placed at the back of the pack toward the rail and was asked by jockey Rajiv Maragh coming around the far turn. He found top gear nearing the eighth pole and made up considerable ground to finish third, beaten by four lengths.

Haikal earned 20 points after Saturday's effort, his first start since the Gotham Stakes (G3) win on March 9 over the Big A main track where he earned 50 points. He is currently seventh on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

"He came out of the race in good shape," McLaughlin said. "I still have to talk to [Shadwell Farms' Racing Manager] Rick Nichols. I think [we'll point to the Derby] we've been texting back and forth, but I just want to talk to him and make sure.

"I would assume we're pointing that way. He ran very well, he finished the fastest last quarter and we just needed another furlong."

Haikal's sire, Daaher, was a Grade 1 winner over one mile when he took Aqueduct's Cigar Mile in 2008, but McLaughlin said Haikal appears to be a horse that will appreciate some added distance.

"That's his sire, you can't really go by that," McLaughlin said. "He's a really neat horse and he can go all day. He came out of the race in good shape and ran very well. All systems are go."

All five of Haikal's career starts have taken place at the Big A. After a second-out maiden win on December 15, he won the seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes on February 9 before taking the Gotham.

Tax, second to Tacitus in the Wood, also exited Saturday's race with goals of going on to the Derby.

The Arch gelding, owned by R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable, earned 40 points after running 1 ¼ lengths behind Tacitus. Tax has 52 points on the Derby leaderboard, the 12th-highest total, and has never finished off the board in five career starts, posting a 2-2-1 record.

Tax ended his sophomore campaign running second to Maximus Mischief in the Remsen (G2) on December 1 and edged Not That Brady by a head to win the Withers (G3) on February 2 at Aqueduct. With three straight races at 1 1/8 miles, Gargan said his charge has improved with age.

"Everything was good this morning," Gargan said. "I thought he ran a tremendous race and can move forward off that effort. His last three races, he's improved tremendously. He learned a lot in the Remsen and then he moved forward in the Withers. We gave him almost nine weeks between those races, and yesterday, he showed up.

"He got a little tired and got pushed down on the rail late, which was a little dead. But it was his first race in a while. I think we're set to move forward off this now. The goal all along was the Derby. That's why we passed on the Gotham. It was a [risk] to only run twice because with these point systems, you have to run well every time if you aren't running [often]. We were lucky enough to win one prep and do well in another. To pass on a race in between, it was a gamble, but it's going to pay off in the long run."

Tax, under jockey Junior Alvarado, bested potential Derby contender Haikal by 2 ¾ lengths. He earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort. With a Classic field without a clear-cut favorite, Gargan said the potential is there for a slew of talented 3-year-olds to make an impact.

"He breaks good out of the gate. If he breaks good, he can sit forwardly placed. He can also sit in the middle of the pack. He's a cool horse that way," Gargan said. "If everything goes as planned and we get to the Derby, we have a chance. His numbers line him up with anyone. As of now, there doesn't seem to be any Justify in there or any monsters. No one has really been better than anyone else yet. So, we're just hoping to get blessed and get a good trip."


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