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McLaughlin's hopes rest with Wafi City
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - In 2005, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin finished second in the Kentucky Derby with Closing Argument. In 2006, McLaughlin won the Belmont Stakes with Jazil. For this year's Triple Crown series, McLaughlin is resigned to the fact he just may be a spectator.
With his best 2-year-old from last year, Day Pass, having been transferred to Godolphin, and with the majority of his remaining prospects slow to come around, McLaughlin may be down to his last bullet in Wafi City, who runs in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
A son of Suburban Handicap winner E Dubai, Wafi City has 2 wins from 3 starts. All of his races have been run at six furlongs or shorter. The Gotham is run at 1o1/16 miles. Last year, McLaughlin won the Gotham with Like Now, who was stretching out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.
"We think he's a quality 3-year-old and we're high on him, and you have to stretch them out at some point and the time is right," McLaughlin said.
Wafi City debuted at Delaware Park on Oct. 22, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths.
"We wanted to get as many winners for E Dubai as we could," said McLaughlin, referring to the stallion whom Sheikh Mohammed stands at Darley Stud in Kentucky. "We didn't have to go over there - he would have won in New York - we just wanted to take that little edge and made sure he won."
In his second start, Wafi City stumbled and finished fourth behind Wollaston Bay, who won last month's Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes. In his 3-year-old debut, Wafi City rolled to a 2 1/2-length victory in a first-level allowance race over the inner track. He ran six furlongs in 1:10.56 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 89.
"He's shown a lot of ability, we really like him, and we think he wants to go long," McLaughlin said. "He was unlucky two starts ago in New York when he stumbled badly leaving there."
McLaughlin, who trains defending Horse of the Year Invasor, admits he's light in the 3-year-old department this year. Elusive Warning just won his debut by 7o1/2 lengths at Aqueduct on Feb. 24. Elusive Value has not run since winning a maiden race last October by nearly five lengths. Mr. White Socks has run two poor races at Gulfstream.
"We have four or five decent ones, we don't really have Derby horses," McLaughlin said.
Castellano breaks collarbone
Jockey Abel Castellano sustained a broken collarbone when his mount, LC Tornado, broke down in the stretch of Sunday's seventh race at Aqueduct. Castellano, the 23-year-old younger brother of Javier Castellano, will miss a minimum of four weeks, according to his agent, Kevin Meyocks.
Meyocks said Castellano had a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with an orthopedic specialist and would get a more definitive time frame for how long he would miss. Meyocks said that Castellano would probably not ride again in New York this winter since he was planning to head back to south Florida soon.
"It's unfortunate timing," Meyocks said. "Our plans were to go back to Florida at the end of March, hopefully catch the last couple of weeks at Gulfstream to get ready for Calder. Business was picking up for us. Coming up here we had no business and we turned out to have a pretty decent meet."
Through Sunday, Castellano was tied for 10th in the rider standings with 17 wins from 176 mounts. He appeared on his way to his 18th win when LC Tornado broke her right front knee just as she struck the front in deep stretch of the first-level allowance race for statebreds. When she fell, LC Tornado also broke her neck and died instantly.
Magnolia Jackson waits for Distaff
Trainer Gary Contessa said he scratched morning-line favorite Magnolia Jackson from Sunday's Broadway Handicap to have a fresher horse for the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap on March 24.
Last year, Magnolia Jackson won the Broadway, then came back and got beat a neck in the Distaff. Contessa said that if Magnolia Jackson ran in the Broadway and the Distaff, that would make for three races in six weeks. Magnolia Jackson won the Correction Handicap on Feb. 11. That race was originally scheduled for Feb. 3.
"What killed us was when the Correction was canceled from the third and brought back on the 11th; that made it [three weeks] to the Broadway," Contessa said. "The problem is then it's another 20 days to the Distaff. I said to [owner Ted Taylor], if the Distaff is the goal then we should scratch today and train for that."
Things worked out for Contessa as his other Broadway starter, Waytotheleft, won the race. It was Contessa's 62nd win of the inner-track meet, enabling him to eclipse what is believed to have been the record of 61 he set last year.
Who What Win heads feature
Who What Win has always been a consistent horse. Now, he's becoming a fast horse. If the 4-year-old New York-bred son of Dance Brightly continues to progress, Who What Win could become a stakes horse.
Wednesday, Who What Win will try knock out an open second-level allowance race, which serves as the featured event on the nine-race card. A sign of spring is the return to a 1 p.m. Eastern post, but the few hearty souls who show up will know it's winter with temperatures in the 20's and snow in the forecast.
Who What Win has finished first or second in 11 of 13 career starts. But since returning from a layoff last November, he has strung together four solid efforts, including a career-best 102 Beyer Speed figure in winning an open-company first-level allowance by 8 1/2 lengths on Feb. 17.
"I didn't expect that kind of race from him last time," trainer John Terranova said. "He usually runs to his competition, but last time he ran away from them."
Terranova said some hind-end issues prompted him to give Who What Win some time off following a neck loss to recent inner-track winner Pay Attention in a statebred allowance race last May 29.
Dynergy, a New York-bred son of Dynaformer who won an open -company allowance race by seven lengths last April, makes his first start in 10 months.