Maragh aims to make 'father figure' proud in Kentucky Derby

NYRA Press Office
April 20, 2019 10:01am
With his best finish on the first Saturday in May coming aboard Mucho Macho Man, who ran third in 2011, jockey Rajiv Maragh remains in search of his first Kentucky Derby victory. He hopes to accomplish the feat aboard Haikal in this year's Run for the Roses.

"Obviously, the Derby is a tough race," said Maragh. "With 20 horses, it makes it a bit challenging for everyone, but it's the most fun you can have riding. All year you look forward to having a chance to riding in the Derby and when you make it there it's very exciting.

"It's very difficult to win, so it makes it more rewarding if you can and thankfully I'll be there this year with

Maragh, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, with 1,867 career wins through the end of Thursday's card at Aqueduct, is no stranger to winning big races, notching four Breeders' Cup wins. He picked up the mount on
 Haikal following his debut in which he finished second by a neck on November 10 at Aqueduct. 

The tandem of Maragh and
 Haikal was immediately successful winning their first three starts together including a maiden score, a first stakes win in the Jimmy Winkfield and an impressive rallying effort to win the Gotham Stakes (G3).

"When I got the mount he came highly regarded," said Maragh. "He finished second in that first race and he's also a well-bred horse, so I was very excited to ride him. He delivered with a strong late kick [in the maiden win] which was impressive."

The Gotham score, at a mile, provided
 Haikal his first graded stakes and an important 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. 

Sent off as the 3-1 second choice last out in the Wood Memorial (G2),
 Haikal trailed early but finished with a sustained run to finish third, picking up an additional 20 Derby qualifying points. 

"I thought he ran a good race in the Wood," said Maragh. "He lost nothing in defeat. It was actually a very promising run because it was his first start at two turns and he showed that he could still be effective closing. He answered all the questions we had of him to give him a chance to enter the field which I think he deserves."

Maragh said winning the Derby for McLaughlin and Shadwell Stable, who are also each in search of their first Derby triumph, would be extra sweet.

"Kiaran is someone who I've always looked up to as a father figure and has always given me good advice and guidance," said Maragh. "It would be great to be able to win our first Derby together along with Shadwell Stable. With
 Haikal, I really think we have a good chance to do just that."

With weather calling for a good chance of rain in the Elmont area this Easter weekend, McLaughlin altered Haikal's work pattern, breezing him a half mile in 47.59 seconds on Friday at Belmont Park.

"We called an audible because a lot of rain is coming [Friday night] and things are closed on Easter," McLaughlin said. "...We'll probably work back next week. We were only scheduled to work once but we changed our mind."

McLaughlin has sent a total of eight horses to Churchill Downs for the Run for the Roses, the best result of which came when 71-1 longshot Closing Argument ran second in 2005 behind fellow longshot Giacomo. Two of his previous Derby starters were for Shadwell Farm, including eventual Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Jazil [2006] and Mohaymen [2016], both of which ran fourth in their respective Derby efforts.

"It's hard to put in words. We just hope we get there," McLaughlin said of the Kentucky Derby. "It's great just to be there for Shadwell because I've been with them for 25 years. It's great to hopefully get there. We're still two weeks out. A win would be priceless."


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