HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Shadwell Stable’s homebred Ajaaweed, graded-stakes placed at 2 and 3, worked a half-mile Friday morning ahead of his next anticipated start in the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) March 28 at Gulfstream Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby for 3-year-olds headlines a blockbuster program of 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.25 million in purses scheduled for the final Saturday program of the 2019-2020 Championship Meet.
Ajaaweed breezed four furlongs Friday in 49.70 seconds over the main track at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, ranking eighth of 26 horses at the distance.
A chestnut son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin, Ajaaweed has now had five works, all at Palm Meadows, since his most recent start when he was third behind Sole Volante and Independence Hall in the Sam F. Davis (G3) Feb. 8 in Tampa.
“He continues to train well and we’re pointing for the Florida Derby. We’re happy with him,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’s always worked well and he continues to train well. The last race he was just so far back and he had to make up ground from well back. Hopefully, things go a little better next Saturday. It’s a mile and an eighth so he gets a little more distance.”
Ajaaweed debuted last summer at Saratoga, finishing fifth, before breaking his maiden second time out in September at Belmont Park. From there he ran fourth to Maxfield in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and second to Shotski, beaten a half-length, in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct to cap his juvenile season.
In his lone start of 2020, Ajaaweed ran last of seven for six furlongs in the 1 1/16-mile Sam Davis, trailing by as many as 19 ½ lengths after a half-mile, but came with a wide rally to get third by a neck over long shot Tiz Rye Time. Jockey Joel Rosario will retain the mount for the Florida Derby.
Initial plans called for Ajaaweed to run in the March 21 Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, but McLaughlin opted to remain in Florida and target the Florida Derby. Other horses being pointed to the race include 2019 Champagne (G1) and 2020 Holy Bull (G3) winner Tiz the Law, Feb. 29 Fountain of Youth (G2) winner Ete Indien, 2019 Nashua (G2) winner Independence Hall and 2019 Breeders’ Futurity runner-up Gouverneur Morris.
“We decided to stay home this time instead of going to Louisiana with him, with everything that’s going on in the world,” McLaughlin said. “There’s a lot of adjustments being made everywhere, but he’s doing very well and we’re looking forward to running.”
The Florida Derby could put an exclamation point on an outstanding training career for the 59-year-old McLaughlin, who is retiring at the end of the month to become agent for two-time Championship Meet-leading jockey Luis Saez.
McLaughlin said has no plans to delay or change his decision despite the circumstances surrounding racing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. His Shadwell-owned horses, including Ajaaweed, will move to trainer Todd Pletcher.
A former agent for late jockey Chris Antley and past leading trainer in Dubai, McLaughlin has been based in the U.S. since 1995 and won 1,577 races and more than $120 million in purses. Among his best horses are 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, 2012 champion 3-year-old filly Questing, 2007 female turf champion Lahudood, 2006 Belmont (G1) winner Jazil, and Grade 1 winners Frosted, Alpha and It’s Tricky.
In its first 68 runnings, the Florida Derby has produced 44 starters that have gone on to win a remarkable 59 Triple Crown races – 24 in the Kentucky Derby (G1), 19 in the Preakness (G1) and 16 in the Belmont.
For McLaughlin, it could produce one final – and memorable – chapter to his success story.
“That would be great,” he said. “That would be nice for Shadwell, also. They’ve been a loyal client for 26 or 27 years, so it would be special if that could happen. It’s a tough race, but we’ll see.”
Also working Friday at Palm Meadows was Screen Door Stables’ Florida Derby nominee As Seen On Tv, going four furlongs in 49.05 seconds. The Florida-bred son of champion Lookin At Lucky was second in the Mucho Macho Man and third in the Fountain of Youth during the Championship Meet.
Via Gulfstream Park Press Release