Haikal to make much-anticipated stakes return in Gulfstream Park Mile

Haikal to make much-anticipated stakes return in Gulfstream Park Mile
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Nearly nine months after being scratched from the Kentucky Derby, Shadwell Stable’s Haikal will make a long-awaited return to stakes company on Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Tuesday that Haikal and stablemate True Timber, last seen running eighth in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), will both be entered to go the one-turn mile at Gulfstream this weekend.

A big and contentious field is shaping up for the Gulfstream Park Mile with three other runners exiting the Pegasus likely to compete: runner-up Mr. Freeze, Diamond Oops (fourth) and Bodexpress (fifth). In addition, Grade 1-winning sprinter Hog Creek Hustle is expected to stretch out in this spot.

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Haikal earned entry into last year’s Kentucky Derby after winning the Gotham Stakes (G3) and running third in the Wood Memorial (G2). However, a foot abscess developed the week of the race, and Haikal defected.

Connections sent Haikal to Shadwell Farm to recover for a late-season campaign. However, the road back turned out to be longer than expected.

“When we missed the Derby, he went home and Shadwell decided to give him a couple months off,” McLaughlin said. “There wasn’t anything major -- no surgery or anything was needed. But it took a little longer than we thought.”

Haikal didn’t resurface until a one-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 5. Sent off the odds-on favorite in a five-horse field, Haikal was near the back of a compact group before being tipped out at the quarter pole and set down for the drive by Manny Franco. He rallied to even terms with leader Lone Rock and Junior Alvarado at the eighth pole, but was then “herded out 3-4 paths” as the trip notes indicate. 

Lone Rock would prevail in the stretch battle by a nose on the wire with another 7 ¾ lengths back to the third-place finisher. After a lengthy stewards review concerning the incident in the stretch, Lone Rock remained the winner. McLaughlin said he agreed with the decision, noting there wasn’t any notable contact in the stretch.

“He ran very well...Even though he didn’t win the other day, it was like a winning race,” McLaughlin said.

A Shadwell homebred, Haikal is by Daaher out of the un-raced Distorted Humor mare Sablah. He is a half-brother to 2017 Vosburgh (G1) winner Takaful.

Haikal has worked four times at Palm Meadows Training Center since the comeback effort. On Friday, he breezed a bullet four furlongs in :48 flat. It was the fastest of 22 works that day.

McLaughlin and Shadwell have hopes of a big 4-year-old campaign from Haikal, who sports a career mark of 6: 3-2-1 with earnings of $389,900.

“He’s run very well every time,” McLaughlin said. “He’s a nice horse -- a good-looking horse with a good mind. We’re excited to see what he can do.” 

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