Haikal scratched from the Kentucky Derby on Friday morning, a day before the race. He is the second horse to withdraw, after Omaha beach, who was the favorite to win in many rankings.
According to his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, the reason Haikal scratched has to do with an abscess on his left front hoof. Per USA Today, McLaughlin said two days before the horse withdrew, “It’s going to be a quick fix, but I don’t know if it’s going to be quick enough. He has to train for us to be comfortable with him. … If he’s still sore, he won’t be.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Haikal Scratched Right Before the 9 AM Deadline; He Will Not Be Replaced by Another Horse
Usually when a horse scratches, that horse’s place will be replaced by another contender. This happened with Omaha Beach, who was replaced by Bodexpress. However, no horse will replace Haikal because there was no second alternate, according to USA Today.
Now, there will be 19 horses competing at the Derby instead of 20, which is why one of the posts will be empty.
Following the decision to scratch Haikal, McLaughlin said the decision was made because they wanted to prioritize the horse’s health over everything else. Per The Courier Journal, McLaughlin said, “We put shoes back on him this morning and jogged him and he was still not 100 percent. After speaking with (Shadwell Farm’s North American general manager) Rich Nichols, we decided to scratch. The horse always comes first.”
McLaughlin continued, “It’s tough for the whole team, His Highness (Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum) and everyone involved, especially with being a homebred who was training so well. We’ll have to see what else is there now (race-wise) after he recovers.”
Following Haikal’s Gotham Stakes win, America’s Best Racing gave this profile of Haikal leading up to his next big race, the Derby:
Haikal has steadily improved in four races, including an incremental step forward that should make him a serious threat in his final Derby prep race if he can match his Gotham speed figures. Compared with the rest of this group of 3-year-olds, he’s proved as fast as any of them from the prep races to date.
There are a couple of reasons for concern, however, including the fact that he has never raced longer than a mile or navigated two turns in a race. There are some smart analysts who peg him long-range as a closer best-suited to one-turn races and sprints.
He also had an absolutely ideal setup in the Gotham coupled with a picture-perfect ride from jockey Rajiv Maragh. None of the runners in the Gotham finished fast and, in this case, one could argue that Haikal was simply the only contender not running on fumes in the final sixteenth of a mile.