BOYNTON BEACH, FL — In this age of the video replay, thanks in large part to online betting and Advance Deposit Wagering companies, not much goes unnoticed.
Once upon a time, “trip horses” were the exclusive province of wiseguys, professionals and amateurs alike, who were willing to do the work.
One still must do the work–just to survive. And what’s worse, all value has been wiped off the face of the mutuel ticket. In fact, it’s now underlay city.
There is a three-year-old that’s not so much a “trip horse” but more like a prospect. We don’t know if Ajaweed is good enough, or fast enough, but we know the Shadwell colt looks like he can run all day.
So we saddled up, me and Andres Asprilla, HRI’s new intern, and made the 30-minute drive north on Florida’s Turnpike to Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training center.
Just wanted to see this boy up close and talk with his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin. “He looks like the right kind,” the trainer said .
Along with his trusty assistants, brother Neal and sister-in-law Trish, McLaughlin watched a few of his runners trot up and back between barns, led by a groom who clearly looked more taxed by the exertion than the horses were.
I took “the right kind” to mean that Ajaweed would be willing to run up the side of a mountain if asked. “He’s a Curlin,” McLaughlin said of the Remsen Stakes runnerup, “and the best thing about him is his mind.”
With that we decided to see for ourselves.
Andres and I walked over to the backside of Barn 23, third stall in, the first stall from the office occupied by graded stakes-winning Lucullan. McLaughlin has horses next door, too, in Barn 33, but we were on a mission.
I’m no horse psychologist but Ajaweed must have a great mind. The muted whispers of two strange visitors didn’t rattle him. Indeed, to the contrary
He nuzzled up to both of us, seeking some attention the way young boys do, playfully nipping at us as we stroked his forehead. And, in fact, he hammed it up a bit, posing left and right, ears flicking away.
Moments like these are the best part of any turf writers’ day, morning’s on the backside, before the parimutuel blood-letting in the afternoon.
Invading Marylander stole the Grade 2 Remsen in broad daylight for trainer Jeremiah O’Dwyer, Luis Saez engineering the front-running theft masterfully, giving Shotski enough rein to get and remain clear, but always with energy in reserve.
After entering the stretch, Shotski gave them the slip and separated himself from the group. At this point, Ajaweed had just begun to roll. Yes, it was too late, but it was exciting.
In that final quarter-mile, Ajaweed went from no-chance, to holy-shit-can-win-this, to dammit, ran out of time and racetrack.
The winner might have been idling some but that would be to miss the larger point.
“We were watching and we all thought the same thing,” McLaughlin agreed.
Ajaweed has begun his training at Palm Meadows but plans for his three-year-old debut have not been firmed up at this posting.
The colt has a total of five Derby qualifying points and it appears he will be taking the two-prep route. Consequently, there will be little time to waste thereafter.
“The points make it a little tricky and I’m a little worried about Gulfstream with his [late] running style. He may make his first start elsewhere… they’ve got that long stretch at the Fair Grounds.
“We’ll know more after he runs again. This is a pretty deep crop, so we’ll see.”