08/26/2006 12:00AM

Henny Hughes draws off


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is a conservative sort who rarely boasts about one of his horses' chances going into a race. But he broke tradition by confidently predicting victory for Henny Hughes in Saturday's $250,000 at Saratoga - and boy, was he right.

Henny Hughes lived up to McLaughlin's lofty expectations when he drew off to a convincing 5 1/4-length victory over Star Dabbler in the King's Bishop. He gave owner Sheikh Rajid al-Maktoum his first Grade 1 victory in the United States, while stamping himself one of the early favorites for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"I usually keep my mouth shut and let my horses do the talking," McLaughlin said. "But I've never been so confident coming into a race. I loved him so much. He's been awesome to train coming into this race and is a very, very special horse."

Henny Hughes, a son of Hennessy, rated just off the pace of El Nino in the run down the backstretch of the seven-furlong King's Bishop. He readily assumed control when urged by jockey John Velazquez leaving the three-eighths pole, then drew off with complete authority while kept to pressure to the wire.

Court Folly rallied from last to finish third, a length in front of an unlucky Mach Ride, who did well to be fourth after stumbling badly leaving the gate. Songster finished a tiring fifth as the second choice in a field of nine.

Henny Hughes covered seven furlongs in 1:21.98 over a fast track and paid $3.50. His victory snapped a 34-race winless streak for Velazquez.

"I think I probably showed more emotion after this race than I have over almost any other win," McLaughlin admitted. "Part of the reason is that I had my whole family here today, including my mother and father. And also because Sheikh Rajid flew over from Dubai to see his horse run on a very special weekend of racing."

McLaughlin said he would point Henny Hughes for the Vosburgh Handicap on Oct. 7 as a final prep for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"The next two races will be against older horses, but I think he's ready for it," said McLaughlin. "I heard Sheikh Rajid said after the race that this was the fastest horse in the world. Right now I would agree with him."