Kiaran McLaughlin

Top Kentucky Derby Trainers – Kiaran McLaughlin

Was there ever really any doubt that Kiaran McLaughlin would get involved in some way in thoroughbred racing for his career? After all, McLaughlin was born on November 15, 1960, in the heart of American horse country: Lexington, Kentucky. McLaughlin hasn’t won the biggest horse race in the United States yet but has one of the top Kentucky Derby contenders in Cairo Prince this year.

McLaughlin attended the University of Kentucky for a year before horse racing called to him. He left school and began working in the industry as an assistant trainer. That included a long stint for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, whose stable McLaughlin joined in 1985 at age 24. McLaughlin left the Lukas stable in February 1992 to become an agent for jockey Chris Antley. He continued in that role until November 1993 when he became the trainer for Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum in Dubai. McLaughlin led the trainer standings in wins four times at Nad Al Sheba Race Course in Dubai and returned full time in the United States in 2003.

McLaughlin’s first American grade 1 stakes winner was in ’03 when Lunar Sovereign took the Man o’ War Stakes on the grass at Belmont Park. McLaughlin also trained Closing Argument, who was second in the 2005 Kentucky Derby despite long-shot Kentucky Derby odds of 71-1; the race was won by fellow long shot Giacomo.

By far McLaughlin’s two most well-known horses have been Invasor and Jazil. Invasor was purchased for $1.4 million by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum to run for Shadwell Stable after winning the Uruguayan Triple Crown in 2005. McLaughlin assumed Invasor’s training duties for Shadwell and in 2006 at age 4, Invasor was named the US Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male when he won the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, Whitney Handicap and Breeders’ Cup Classic, all grade 1 races. Invasor beat Preakness and Travers winners Bernardini in the Classic and was ranked No. 1 in the 2006 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings. Invasor would retire with a career record of 11-0-0 from 12 starts and earnings of $7,804,070.

Also in 2006, Jazil finished in a dead-heat for fourth in the Kentucky Derby but won the Belmont Stakes. The colt was ridden by 18-year-old Panamanian jockey Fernando Jara, who rallied Jazil from last-to-first for a 1¼-length victory over Bluegrass Cat. The Belmont was missing Kentucky Derby betting favorite and winner Barbaro as well as Preakness winner Bernardini. It was the first American classic victory for McLaughlin. Jazil came into the Belmont with only a maiden victory in 2005 and was 0-for-4 in ’06. McLaughlin finished second for the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer in ’06. McLaughlin, who takes daily injections to combat multiple sclerosis, got his 1,000th victory in March 2012 when Que Posse won an allowance race at Aqueduct.

McLaughlin’s Cairo Prince was the favorite for those who bet on the Kentucky Derby on the Pool 2 2014 odds released in early February. Cairo Prince was 8-1 in that release, a huge jump from 26-1 where he was in November 2013. Cairo Prince has three wins in four career starts. The colt won the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes in November 2013 at Aqueduct before being edged by another Kentucky Derby betting favorite, Honor Code, at the Grade 2 Remsen, also at Aqueduct, later that month. Cairo Prince’s 3-year-old debut was a victory in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream in January. Cairo Prince would be the fifth horse trained by McLaughlin to run in the Kentucky Derby.