Haikal Odds to Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
Sooner or later we are going to see one of the massive racing operations owned by the ruling family of Dubai - Godolphin or Shadwell Stable - win the Kentucky Derby. It's a massive prize, and two stables that have won pretty much every race worth winning around the world have yet to claim this one. And though they have tried often, they haven't come really close. Godolphin finished fourth in 2015 with Frosted, who was also second in the Belmont. And Shadwell won the Belmont with Jazil in 2006 after the horse finished fourth in the Derby. Now Shadwell is back at the Derby with a homebred, Haikal, who won one prep race and was third in another. It's not the best horse they have ever sent, but it's not a complete dud, either. Can Haikal get Dubai the win they crave?
Last race: The best thing you can say about Haikal in the Wood Memorial is that he was relaxed. He found himself well off the pace like he usually is. And despite travelling a little wide, he did not hurry or panic. Instead, he waited until the latter portion of the last turn before unleashing his charge. He split horses professionally and got up for third. He was well beaten by both Tacitus and Tax, but it was still a decent enough effort. It's worth noting that he was further behind the pace early on in this one than he had ever been before. It felt, perhaps, like he was a bit too far back - especially given the quality of horses he will face in the Derby.
Prior experience: The Kentucky Derby will be the first time in the colt's racing career that he has left Aqueduct. He started his career in November, winding up a competitive second in a maiden race. A month later he broke his maiden by a neck - the same margin he had lost his opener by. In February he moved up to listed stakes company and again came out on top by a neck. He does not like winning by daylight. That earned him a move up to graded stakes company, and he next appeared in the Gotham, Aqueduct's second biggest Derby prep race. That race set up very well for him. The early pace was very aggressive, which set up well for a closer like Haikal. He launched his move down the stretch, picked up the pieces, and won by a length. The only real cause for concern in the effort was that he shied away noticeably from the whip in the stretch. That shows a lack of focus that is a concern in the chaos of the Derby.
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin is one of the many top trainers from the D. Wayne Lukas tree. Lukas won the Derby in 1988 with Winning Colors while McLaughlin worked for him. After that, McLaughlin went to Dubai to train for a decade and has continued to train for Shadwell and Godolphin since returning here - though no longer exclusively. He has had plenty of success, winning more than 1,500 races. His lone Triple Crown race win was in 2006 when he won the Belmont with Jazil. He was also fourth in the Derby with that horse. He was fourth in the Derby as well in 2015 with Frosted, who also finished second in the Belmont. And he was second in the Derby in 2005 with Closing Argument. McLaughlin isn't the best Triple Crown trainer in this field, but he can certainly hold his own.
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh is a veteran jockey with more than 1,800 wins, the majority of which have come in New York. He has won four Breeders' Cup races, though none since 2013. He has had less success in Triple Crown races, with a second in the Belmont in 2017 with Irish War Cry and a third in the 2011 Derby on Mucho Macho Man being his best efforts. He's a long way from the top jockey in the field, and I am generally happier when I don't have to trust him, but he's not a total disaster by any means.
Breeding: All you really need to know about Daaher, the Grade 1 winning sire of Haikal, is that he is currently standing in Louisiana. When a very well-bred stud like this finds himself in Louisiana, you know his breeding career has not been a success. Haikal is on track to be the best of his offspring. Daaher is well-bred, though. He's a son of Awesome Again, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner who sired horse of the year Ghostzapper and Preakness winner Oxbow. Haikal's damsire is Distorted Humor, who has sired Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and Belmont and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer, among many other top horses. Distorted Humor is the grandsire of Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another. The breeding here is fine for this task.
Odds: In the last official Kentucky Derby futures pool, Haikal was a 35/1 long shot. BetOnline has him at +3300 in early futures betting action.
Can Haikal Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby?: Maybe. But probably not. He is a decent horse. And if the pace is as fast as it could be early in the Derby, it could set up well for him. But other horses are just plain better, and he faces an uphill battle here. Aqueduct often doesn't produce top Derby contenders, and I don't expect it to here. I am not on the Haikal bandwagon. Come to think of it, is there even a Haikal bandwagon?
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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