Haikal set to make stakes debut in Jimmy Winkfield
by Najja Thompson
Following an impressive maiden victory in his second career start, Shadwell Stable's Haikal will headline a seven-horse field in the 35th running of the $150,000 Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct Racetrack.
For 3-year-olds going seven furlongs, the Jimmy Winkfield, which will go as the second leg of Saturday's Cross Country Pick 5, will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Saturday At The Races, produced by NYRA, and air on FS2 from 4-6:00 p.m.
A Kentucky homebred sired by multiple graded stakes winner Daaher, who was also trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, and out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Sablah, Haikal is a half-brother to graded stakes winner Takaful.
Making his racing debut at seven furlongs on November 10 at the Big A at 14-1, Haikal closed menacingly from five-wide in the upper stretch to finish second by a neck at the wire. Returning to the races on December 15, Haikal overcame being bumped at the start and finished with a fury to win at six furlongs.
"He's made some good progression since his last race," said McLaughlin. "In each of his starts, he's closed well. He's a little more relaxed than Takaful, who was extremely talented and a bit difficult to train in the mornings, but we're still trying to figure out how far Haikal can go. Depending on how he performs on Saturday, we'll keep the [Grade 3, $300,000] Gotham in consideration going forward."
Reunited with rider Rajiv Maragh who was aboard for his maiden breaking score, Haikal will leave from post 3.
Trainer Jason Servis will saddle a pair of talented runners in Leonard Green's Gates of Dawn and Direct Order, for Ara Aprahamian.
Purchased for $425,000 at the Ocala Breeders Sale 2-year-olds in training last April, Gates of Dawn broke his maiden by three lengths in his second start on November 17 at Parx. He ran fourth in his stakes debut in the Jerome on January 1 at Aqueduct.
Direct Order has two wins from five career starts. Previous to finishing sixth in the Jerome, the New Year's Day colt broke his maiden on October 15 at Parx in this third career start and followed with an optional-claiming win on November 29 at Aqueduct.
Gates of Dawn, with Junior Alvarado aboard, will leave from post 7. Direct Order will depart from post 5 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Trainer Gregory Sacco will send out Joevia for his stakes debut for owner Michael Fazio. The dark brown or bay Shanghai Bobby colt has made only one start, winning his debut by 1 ¾ lengths on July 15 at Monmouth Park.
Sacco said the colt has continued to show promise in recent weeks to give him enough confidence in entering this spot.
"He was Mind Control's workmate when they first came up from Ocala," said Sacco. "I thought those two were at the top of our group as far as our 2-year-olds when we first got them. We expected a good effort in his first start, and we thought he really ran well especially only going five furlongs which is short for him.
"Following that maiden win we were going to run him in the [Grade 2] Saratoga Special, but he suffered a minor setback with a hyperextended knee injury," continued Sacco. "We backed off of him and let him fully recover a full 90 days and he's continued to show good works in his return. We know it's a tall order to come back in a stakes race, typically we'd look for an allowance to come back in, but he's training well so we figured we'd take our shot."
Reunited with Chris DeCarlo, Joevia will leave from post 2.
Also entered is Family Biz for trainer Eddie Barker and owners Danny Chen, James Cestaro and Campbell Road Stables; Tikhvin Flew for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Bloom Racing Stable; and Jump for Alex shipping in from Parx for trainer Guadalupe Preciado and owner Edward Stone.
The Jimmy Winkfield is slated as Race 8 on Saturday's 9-race card. First post time is 12:50 p.m.