Neal McLaughlin, brother and assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, had not visited Hollywood Park since the 1997 Breeders’ Cup, but he was happy to be back Friday.
McLaughlin, an assistant in New York and Florida for 16 years, was on hand to supervise the works of two Shadwell Farm candidates for the Turf Festival later this month.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him move since I’ve been with him,” said McLaughlin of Shakis. “He came home really fast and was moving really well. He’s definitely taken a liking to this surface. That was perfect.”
Shakis was shipped here to Barn 55 following an 11th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
“It seems like the Breeders’ Cup didn’t take much out of him,” said McLaughlin. “He didn’t get a chance to run in that one. He was on the rail, and it never opened. He seems to have bounced out of it fantastic. I’m really excited.”
McLaughlin expressed confidence Shakis would make amends for the Breeders’ Cup in the Grade I Citation at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
“In the Breeders’ Cup, against that quality of field and drawing the one-hole, we had to commit to saving ground, and it didn‘t open up,” explained McLaughlin of the race in which Shakis was forced to check while in tight quarters in the stretch. “Nobody was going to catch the filly (winner Goldikova) that day, but we had a chance for third.
“I think a mile and a sixteenth is exactly what he wants,” added McLaughlin. “He loves it firm He just needs some speed in front of him, a good draw and a clean trip. In his best races, he circles the field.”
Shakis, an Irish-bred son of Machiavellian with seven victories in 35 starts and earnings of $860,532, will make his final start before going to stud at Shadwell in Kentucky.
“We would love to get that Grade I after his name,” said McLaughlin. “He’s won a couple of Grade IIs and been close in a couple of Grade Is. A Citation win would solidify his position in Kentucky. It’s an important race for him.”
Alan Garcia will ride both Shakis and Habaya. McLaughlin said Habaya, a royally-bred daughter of Storm Cat out of champion Golden Apples, breezed an easy five furlongs in preparation for her third start. She broke her maiden at first asking on the Belmont turf before finishing second in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 9.
“She was not a real precocious 2-year-old,” said McLaughlin. “She moved well on dirt but with her pedigree, we thought we would try the grass. We thought about the Breeders’ Cup, but we ran her back in two weeks in that stake in Kentucky, and with her pedigree and bright future, wanted to give her more time.
“Habaya is the first horse we’ve gotten that was broken in Dubai as a yearling,” added McLaughlin. “Johnny Hyde, who breaks all Sheikh Hamdan’s babies over there, used to work for Kiaran in Dubai. Our other U.S. horses are broken in South Carolina. It’s a bit of an experiment, but it has worked well.” (Sheikh Hamdan owns Shadwell.)
The synthetic surface here was a big attraction for both horses.
“They both trained very well on the Polytrack at Keeneland, a reason for bringing them out here early,” said McLaughlin. “Rather than go back to New York in the cold, we decided to let them get accustomed to the weather out here.
“(Synthetic) influenced our training schedule with both horses, especially being turf horses,” added McLaughlin. “I think the synthetic surfaces here in California will open the door for more horses from overseas and the East.”
McLaughlin said Shakis and Habaya were scheduled to breeze once more next Friday before their stakes engagements.
BACKBACKBACKGONE BACK FOR THE PREVUE
Trainer Peter Miller said Friday from San Luis Rey Downs that unbeaten Backbackbackgone would seek his fourth victory in the $100,000-added Hollywood Prevue Stakes for 2-year-olds on Nov. 23. The Grade III test is at seven furlongs.
Backbackbackgone won the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes here in his second start May 25 and returned from a four-month layoff to capture the six-furlong Goodman Stakes at Santa Anita by a nose Oct. 18.
“He had some minor baby stuff after the Proctor,” explained Miller of the layoff. “He showed a lot of guts in the Goodman. I didn’t have him real tight, he didn’t switch leads and was a little short.
“He should be a lot tighter for this,” added Miller. “He worked a strong seven-eighths here Wednesday in 1:25 and four-fifths, the last quarter in 23 and two. He should be ready to go.”
Rafael Bejarano has the call back.
FINISH LINES — Trainer Doug O’Neill said Garrett Gomez would ride Hollywood Juvenile Championship winner Azul Leon for the first time in the Hollywood Prevue. “He bounced out of the Breeders’ Cup in great shape,” said O’Neill of Azul Leon, who finished ninth, 4 ¾ lengths behind the winner. “He was shuffled back behind a slow pace.”…O’Neill also plans to run Master Daniel, a 3-year-old colt, in the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at six furlongs Nov. 22...Irish trainer Ger Lyons, who will send out his first Hollywood Park starter in Pasar Silbano in Sunday’s Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, is not related to television racing analyst and former trainer Frank Lyons, but they are well acquainted. “I met Frank when I worked in the United States for Carl Nafzger in 1986, and where I live in Ireland now in County Meath is ten miles from Frank’s home in Dunboyne.” Lyons’ wife, Lynne, explained she named the filly Pasar Silbano, “’To Whistle By’ in Spanish because the dam’s name is Give A Whistle.”…Trainer Bob Baffert has high hopes for both Casino Gold and Wynning Ride in the Moccasin. “The Anoakia went in 1:07 and four — ridiculous,” said Baffert of the six-furlong time of the Santa Anita stake on Oct. 19 when Casino Gold checked in fourth behind wire-to-wire winner Mi Chiamano Mimi, who puts her unbeaten record on the line in the Moccasin. Baffert will send out his first stakes starter for owner Arnold Zetcher in Wynning Ride since Zetcher turned over most of his stable to him last month. The Candy Ride filly broke her maiden Oct. 10 at first asking for previous trainer Ron McAnally…Trainer David Hofmans likes the prospects of consistent Fire n’ Brimstone in the $65,000 Audrey-Skirball Kenis. “I think the mile and an eighth will be a big help,” he said. “It may be a little step up, but I think she is ready for it.”