09/02/2008 11:00PM

McLaughlin aims to build on first title


ELMONT, N.Y. - Kiaran McLaughlin on Wednesday morning was still reveling in the joy of winning the Saratoga trainers' title, his first title of any kind on the New York Racing Association circuit.

McLaughlin won the title with 17 winners, two more than his friend and colleague Todd Pletcher, a six-time leading trainer at Saratoga.

"Great meet," McLaughlin said. "Going in, I felt like we could have a good meet, but it usually takes a few more wins than I had to win it. Another 10 days and Kimmel might have passed us."

McLaughlin was referring to the fact that trainer John Kimmel won seven consecutive races from Aug. 29 through Monday. McLaughlin went on a little streak of his own, winning 10 races from 27 starters from Aug. 16-28.

"For us, we've never really been in contention for leading trainer," McLaughlin said. "It's great, No. 1, for our owners, they give us nice horses, and B, with my [multiple sclerosis] it's great for all my help because they do all the work and labor."

One of the keys to McLaughlin winning the trainers' title was his success with 2-year-olds. McLaughlin won maiden races at the Spa with Charitable Man, Girolamo, Regal Ransom, Majestic Blue, and Rereadthefootnotes.

McLaughlin plans to run Charitable Man and Girolamo in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 13. Majestic Blue will run next in the NATC Stakes at Monmouth on Sept. 28, while Regal Ransom is scheduled to run in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3. Rereadthefootnotes ran third in the Grade 3 Sapling at Monmouth last weekend.

McLaughlin said that when he first returned from Dubai to train horses in North America, he didn't get that many 2-year-olds. This year, McLaughlin has about 40 2-year-olds in his care. McLaughlin gave a lot of credit to jockey Alan Garcia for getting his 2-year-olds ready to win first time out. Garcia breezed a lot of McLaughln's horses from the gate prior to their debuts.

Not everything went according to plan for McLaughlin. Divine Park, winner of the Metropolitan Handicap, finished a dull sixth in the Woodward, while Lucky Island finished sixth in the Forego after a troubled start.

McLaughlin said that though Divine Park attempted to bear out in the Woodward, he did not show anything physically wrong afterward.

"He did not fire that day, but he did not get hurt, either," McLaughlin said. "We're going to bring him down here and reunite him with his old exercise rider and see what happens."

Renzo Morales was Divine Park's exercise rider, but only recently returned to work after suffering an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin said that Lucky Island may run next in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita on Sept. 27. Lucky Island is not Breeders' Cup nominated, and McLaughlin said that before the horse's owner, Shadwell, would have to shell out a six-figure supplemental sum to run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, it may help to find out how the horse likes Santa Anita's new synthetic surface. McLaughlin has Abraaj to run in the Grade 1 Vosburgh here on the same day.

Vineyard Haven to Champagne

Vineyard Haven came out of his victory in Monday's Grade 1 Hopeful in good order, trainer Bobby Frankel said, and will most likely make his next start in the Grade 1, $400,000 Champagne Stakes here Oct. 4.

"Get what I can when I can," Frankel, who owns majority interest in Vineyard Haven, said Wednesday. "Right now, the Champagne looks good."

Vineyard Haven gave Frankel his first victory in the Hopeful. Frankel said it's the first horse he could recall starting in the Grade 1 fixture for juvenile colts.

Hostess possible for Flower Bowl

Hostess, who set a Saratoga inner-turf-course record winning Monday's Grade 3, $108,900 Glens Falls Handicap, will be pointed to the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational here Sept. 27, weather permitting, trainer James Bond said.

Bond has been insistent on running Hostess only on firm turf and said he would consider races like the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita on Sept. 27 or the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on Oct. 4 if Belmont's turf is too soft. Bond's ultimate goal is the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 24.

"Our first preference is the Flower Bowl, so we just have to ship [to California] one time," Bond said Wednesday from Saratoga. "Basically, the weather's going to be a big factor."

Hostess relished Saratoga's firm turf on closing day as she ran 1 3/8 miles in 2:11.66, eclipsing an 11-year-old course record of 2:12 set by Babinda. Hostess made an eye-catching move to the lead in midstretch under jockey Rajiv Maragh and then held off a late run from Palmilla, trained by Jonathan Sheppard.

"I thought she ran a great race, I thought Jonathan Sheppard's filly ran a great race," Bond said. "We had her trapped inside and she made a good run. Our jockey was pretty happy; when you set a track record, you're supposed to be [happy]. I know we were running on a hard turf course, but it was a good race back for her."

Bond had planned on running Hostess against the boys in the Sword Dancer on Aug. 16, but the turf course came up soft that day.

* The Philadelphia Park stewards fined Tony Micallef, agent for jockey Alan Garcia, $250 for not honoring a verbal commitment he had given the owners of Alaazo to ride that horse in Monday's $1 million Pennsylvania Derby. Garcia remained in Saratoga where he rode two winners, including Vineyard Haven in the $250,000 Hopeful Stakes, to clinch the meet riding title, 39-36.

Alaazo, meanwhile, finished ninth in the Pennsylvania Derby under Frankie Pennington.