Haskin's Derby Trail: E Train Rolling Toward Louisville

While many of the leading 3-year-olds were competing in the warm, sunny climes of Florida and Louisiana, a silent assassin was laying low up in the chilly confines of Belmont Park. His name has barely been mentioned in the past few weeks, but he appears to be well armed to do some damage in the Wood Memorial, and if he gets lucky, even more damage on the first Saturday in May. In addition to showing vast improvement with each start, running a super race in his stakes debut, he has an impeccable pedigree, tracing to one of the potent female families of the past century.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the horse in question is ELNAAWI. This is not to imply that he is going to knock off Verrazano and Vyjack, or even Normandy Invasion, but let’s just say nothing would come as a surprise with this colt, who is improving dramatically with each start. It would, however, be a surprise if he doesn’t run a huge race.

Owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Elnaawi broke his maiden in his second career start going a mile in the mud, while breaking from post 9 and going four-wide into the first turn. Despite stiff early fractions of :23 and :46 3/5, he made a very early move on the backstretch and quickly opened a clear lead. In the stretch, he turned back a serious challenge from Revocation and was drawing away at the wire to win by four lengths. Finishing a well-beaten third was stablemate Incognito, who would come back to break his maiden impressively by 3 1/4 lengths.

McLaughlin entered Elnaawi a month later in an allowance race, but the card was canceled due to bad weather, so the colt had to go into the Gotham off only two career starts instead of three and  a two-month layoff instead of a one-month layoff.

Soon after the start of the Gotham, West Hills Giant, wearing blinkers for the first time, angled sharply to the inside, putting Elnaawi in a tight squeeze, causing him steady. He was swung to the outside by Channing Hill, getting caught four-wide going into the first turn. He continued four-wide around the turn and six-wide down the backstretch. He put in a good run on the far turn, but was fanned six-wide turning for home.

He closed steadily through the stretch, but when Vyjack came charging up alongside, he began drifting in, and once clear, continued to drift across Elnaawi’s path, causing him to again swing to the outside, where he put in another good run to finish third, galloping out very strong. A foul claim against the rider of West Hills Giant was not allowed, although he definitely put Elnaawi in tight quarters and forced him to steadily briefly.

What made this performance even more impressive, in addition to having only two starts and missing a race, is the fact that Elnaawi is a May 15 foal, so he wasn’t even close to actually turning 3.

He now has this race under him; he’s learned to deal with adversity; he returns to Aqueduct’s main track, where he should appreciate the bigger turns; and he gets Eddie Castro, who replaces Hill.

And now for this colt’s pedigree. He is by Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, who has also sired Unlimited Budget this year. His dam, Pilfer, is a half-sister to Cotillion winner India, and Pilfer’s broodmare sire is Miswaki, sire of Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Black Tie Affair, as well as Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea, who is the dam of European Horses of the Year Galileo and Sea the Stars.

But it is Elnaawi’s tail-female family that is a knockout. His third dam, Java Moon, is by Graustark, out of Golden Trail, which represents a good portion of the foundation of Darby Dan Farm. Golden Trail was purchased from Mrs. Isabel Dodge Sloane’s famed Brookmeade Stable.

Golden Trail’s record as a broodmare was nothing short of sensational. She produced GLEAMING LIGHT, winner of the Dwyer Stakes; JAVA MOON, winner of the Comely Stakes; KELLEY’S DAY, third in the Gazelle and the dam of Brian’s Time, who won the Florida Derby, Pegasus, and Jim Dandy and placed in the Preakness, Belmont, and Travers and who would become a top sire in Japan, his best son being Triple Crown winner Narita Brian; ON THE TRAIL, the dam of Saratoga seven-furlong track-record holder (1:20 1/5) Darby Creek Road, winner of the Sword Dancer, Hill Prince, and Saratoga Special and placed in the Belmont Stakes (behind Affirmed and Alydar), Wood Memorial, Champagne, Dwyer, Peter Pan, and Cowdin; and Andover way, who won the grade I Top Flight and four other stakes and is the dam of stakes winner and leading sire Dynaformer (sire of Barbaro) and Black Speck, the dam of this year’s UAE Derby winner Lines of Battle; SYLVAN PLACE, who was second in the Florida Derby and Ohio Derby; and OUTWARD SUNSHINE, the dam of Sunshine Forever, winner of the D.C. International, Turf Classic, Man o’War Stakes and placed in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Arlington Million. On the Trail also produced the stakes-winning Regal Road, who is the granddam of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos.

On top of all that, Elnaawi is a half-brother to To Honor and Serve, winner of the Cigar Mile, Woodwatrd, Pennsylvania Derby, and Remsen.

Elnaawi has His Majesty in his sire’s family as great-grandsire of Street Sense. and Graustark in his female family, which gives him 5x6 inbreeding to Ribot. His third dam, Our Tina Marie, a daughter of Java Moon, is by Nijinsky II, giving Elnaawi three doses of Northern Dancer through Nijinsky, Vice Regent, and Dixieland Band.

As for McLaughlin’s other 3-year-olds, Incognito will run next in the Illinois Derby, which he could use as a prep for the either the Preakness or Belmont, and Transparent will run in an allowance at Aqueduct. He, too, could be a Belmont Stakes horse.

Battle lines are drawn

Another traveling on the Golden Trail to Louisville is UAE Derby winner Lines of Battle, who, like Elnaawi, traces to Golden Trail, only one generation closer. Lines of Battle is by War Front, out of Black Speck, who is by Arch, out of Andover Way, making his dam a half-sister to Dynaformer.

Although his time in the UAE Derby was extremely slow for 1 3/16 miles, he should get a great deal of fitness and bottom from the race, and I loved the way he found another gear late and was drawing clear of the runner-up after being challenged from the inside. Of all the horses O’Brien has sent to Churchill, this colt looks to have the best shot of making his presence felt.

As mentioned, his female family is dynamite and is it loaded with dirt influences. Don’t overlook this colt. He made a handsome presence in Dubai and carries himself like a good horse.


Leave a Comment:

Tiz Herself

Another like on Elnaawi is big half brother To Honor And Serve was good enough to win the Nashua Stakes, the Cigar Mile, the Pennsylvania Derby, the Woodward Stakes at 9F, etc and he broke his maiden in the mud, should he break through in the Wood Memorial and have enough points to be Derby bound and it just happens to be raining... could be epic!

01 Apr 2013 7:49 PM
Tiz Herself

Steve, I have to ask, has anything been said at all who Gary Stevens may be riding come Derby time?

01 Apr 2013 7:51 PM
Tiz Herself

I do like Black Onyx too. His daddy Rock Hard Ten was one of my favorites of his generation and was fortunate to meet RHT in person in 2010.

Broodmare sire Cape Town sired 2003 Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town who was out of Storm Bird mare Dear Birdie. KALAHARI CAT, by Cape Town has Storm Cat as her broodmare sire.

Second dam Desert Stormette also produced Desert Gold ($230k+) who broke her maiden at Churchill Downs by more than 6 lengths. Third dam Breezy Stories (Damascus) was bred by E P Taylor and also produced Desert Stormer ($800k+).

He is going to have quite a bit time off in between as well but should be well acclamated to Churchill come May 4.

01 Apr 2013 8:00 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Really cool article. I love the pedigrees of both Elnaawi and Lines of Battle. I agree that it will be strange if Elnaawi does not run a big race but there is some stiff competition in the Wood, likely the most competitive prep of all. Lines of Battle should definitely run better on dirt.

01 Apr 2013 8:31 PM

I agree with the assessment of the race and do believe his performance was a lot better than it appeared. One pertinent point not highlighted is the fact the in the Gotham ELNAAWI was first time Lasix. He is likely to show even more improvement second time Lasix.

Of note as well is the fact that he is a half-brother to millionaire To Honor and Serve.

With the Mr. Prospector sire line contingent getting smaller with the elimination of Code West and Palace Malice based on lack of points, I will be cheering heavily for ELNAAWI despite by future  pool wager on Mr. Palmer.

01 Apr 2013 10:05 PM

The only sad thing for me is CHANNING HILL being taken off the colt. The Nebraska Kid is a proven winner in New York. He has given the colt good rides so why change a good thing. Ah, such a fickle sport.

01 Apr 2013 10:28 PM
Bobby G

Another great article. Exciting to see these horses getting lined up for the Derby. Tiz a Minister made a really impressive move on the final turn in the San Felipe. If he hadn't gotten distracted coming out of it he might have won. The Santa Anita looks to be another great race.

01 Apr 2013 10:30 PM
Steve Haskin

Tiz Herself, I thought I had mentioned To Honor and Serve, but I neglected to. Thanks for mentioning it. I added it.

Gary Stevens will be riding Oxbow in the Arkansas Derby.

01 Apr 2013 11:26 PM
Steve Haskin

Kyle, I like War Academy a lot, but I'm waiting for the Arkansas Derby to see how he does against better quality horses. Also, I'm anxious to see how Uncaptured and Java's War do in the Blue Grass.

01 Apr 2013 11:57 PM

Steve, you may have answered this before, but wasn't Northern Taste the most dominant sire in Japan prior? He was leading sire 10 or 11 years.

02 Apr 2013 12:37 AM
Steve Haskin

I changed that to soften it. He was a top sire of classic-type horses, including Triple Crown winner Narita Brian.

02 Apr 2013 4:47 AM

Nice to see Street Sense on a roll!

Good luck to Elnaaw's connections in the Wood!

02 Apr 2013 8:41 AM
Pedigree Ann

Elnaawi has 3 races under his belt, and his only win is on the muddy Inner Track. He may be a progressive sort, but I think they should be looking towards a race than later the Kentucky Derby. Even with a good run in the Wood, it looks like too much, too soon for a nice prospect.

02 Apr 2013 11:13 AM
Tiz Herself

Thanks Steve, Gary is one of my favorite riders of all time and to see him back on the Derby trail during his comeback and if he and Oxbow go to the gate May 4 will be a great pair.

Who do you like for the Oaks? Dreaming of Julia looked fantastic in the Gulfstream Oaks... I hope Kauai Katie gets her chance although feel that she may be more of a sprinter, I love Katie so much.

02 Apr 2013 7:48 PM
Tiz Herself

Am stoked to see Midnight Lute represented so well :) Mylute, Govenor Charlie (who I like as is a grandson of Silverbulletday), Midnight Lucky

Midnight Lute I hope to see in person some day. Will be interested to see where Govenor Charlie runs next.

02 Apr 2013 7:52 PM
Tiz Herself

Also hoping that Dewey Square and Capo Bastone surface although haven't seen a whole lot on either.

02 Apr 2013 8:11 PM
Greg R

Elnaawi seems to be getting a lot of mentions recently and is becoming the latest "wise guy" horse.  I was a major Street Sense fan.  He was at his best at Churchill.

Lines of Battle appears the most promising prospect to come out of the UAE Derby for some time.  If he can run 1 3/16 on Tapeta when he figures to like dirt as well or better than synthetic or turf, he could take Kentucky by storm.

06 Apr 2013 12:07 AM

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