Invasor leaves cherished memories for McLaughlin

September 11, 2007 5:06 AM
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Invasor will never be ranked as one of the greatest horses of his time. And that’s a pity, because even though he accomplished more than most thoroughbreds, he lacked the cachet of a Spectacular Bid, a Cigar, a Skip Away or even a Smarty Jones.

Instead, due in large part to an abbreviated career of only 12 races, Invasor, Horse of the Year in 2006, will be lumped with other recent honorees whose campaigns were bereft of longevity, such as Saint Liam, Ghostzapper and Mineshaft.

Invasor won six consecutive Grade I races and two of the world’s most prestigious events, the $6 million Dubai World Cup and the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, earning more than $7.8 million before his untimely retirement in June due to the fracture of a sesamoid bone in his right hind leg. Still, Invasor (it means Invader in Spanish) seemed to depart with his potential unfulfilled, even though only three races remained on his agenda before he would have been retired anyway.

But don’t tell that to Kiaran McLaughlin.

"It’s unfortunate, but these things happen in this business," said Invasor’s trainer. "Still, he earned a lot of money and won the biggest races in the world. I think he accomplished plenty (in 2006, upsetting the heralded Bernardini in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the sacrosanct Discreet Cat in the Dubai World Cup). It would have been nice to get three more starts out of him, but I’m glad he made it home in one piece."

Invasor, a 5-year-old Argentine-bred son of the late Candy Stripes, won the Triple Crown in Uruguay and was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old in that country. After he was privately purchased by the Shadwell Stable of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum in 2006, Invasor scored Grade I victories in the Whitney, the Pimlico Special and the Suburban, followed by the Breeders’ Cup Classic and his stirring conquest of Bernardini. Considering Invasor’s background, those results were staggering, comparable to actors Danny DeVito and Gerard Depardieu overcoming their atypical physicality to portray leading men.

"Invasor certainly brought our outfit some bright moments and great memories, and this business is all about memories," McLaughlin said. "To win the World Cup is the best; it can’t get much better for me and my staff and family, because we spent 10 years in Dubai." McLaughlin, a native of Lexington, Ky., previously trained for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, and currently his brother, Sheikh Hamdan. McLaughlin was the leading trainer at Nad al Sheba Race Course in Dubai in 1994-95.

"We’re close to Sheikh Hamdan and the Maktoum family in general, so it was great to go back there and win the World Cup in March and then the Breeders’ Cup last fall," said McLaughlin, who will be 47 on Nov. 15. "Those were the biggest races in the world, to me. The Kentucky Derby would be up there also, but I’m just saying it was a great run.

"Yes, Invasor could have run more, but he did have surgery two years ago on the same sesamoid, so we were lucky we got through all those races as well as we did. I think he was a once-in-a-lifetime horse, for me as a trainer. I hope another one comes along, and Rick Nichols (vice president and general manager of Shadwell Farm) recently purchased four horses in Argentina, two of which are Group 1 winners, so you never know. They’re in our barn now and that’s exciting." A Breeders’ Cup Mile candidate, Shadwell’s Shakis, trained by McLaughlin, set a course record for 11/8 miles on turf in winning the prestigious Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 25.

McLaughlin also is optimistic about his young stock.

"As far as young stars, we hope we have some," he said. "We have 30 two-year-olds and you’re always hopeful."

Meanwhile, Invasor is preparing for the upcoming breeding season.

"He’s on the Shadwell farm in Lexington and doing very well," McLaughlin said. "He’s sound and doesn’t need surgery. Basically, his ankle is healing, and once that happens, he’ll probably be turned out and be ready for breeding in January or February, whenever they start."

The homestretch

”¡ Louie Anderson remains the funniest man in Vegas. Despite a painful injury to his knee in a losing battle with marble while showering, Anderson soldiers on in his long-term engagement at the Excalibur, treating packed houses to more than an hour of laugh-out-loud comedy. Anderson’s timing, topicality, delivery, inflection and gestures are impeccable, and blend together in perfect unison. The result is a side-splitting routine with nary a foul word in a bare bones decor best described as "Early Garage Sale."

The 54-year-old comic has battled family issues and weight problems throughout his career (he recently lost 80 pounds on an Overeaters Anonymous program and hasn’t smoked in three years), but they haven’t impaired his spot-on perspective on life. Anderson’s humor is natural and goes down like a soothing drink. He’s like the Grand Canyon, an American treasure of majestic scope that must be seen to be appreciated.

”¡ Airport security confiscated my deodorant and toothpaste for being above the minimum of three ounces on my recent trip to Las Vegas. After that, not only did my luck stink, but so did my body and breath.

”¡ Guaranteed to be on Blackwell’s looks-worst-in-uniform list: the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel and the Braves’ Bobby Cox.