Grade 2-placed Takaful earned a shot at the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) on August 26 at Saratoga following a 5 1/4-length romp against allowance rivals on the Spa’s opening Friday card.
The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee grabbed command from the start and never looked back in the six-furlong sprint, pulling away under a hand ride from Jose Ortiz to finish in 1:09.89 over the fast main track.
Takaful will ship back to Belmont Park to ready for the seven-furlong Allen Jerkens Memorial (formerly the King’s Bishop) under the care of assistant trainer Joe Lee.
“He came out of it in great shape and will go to Belmont in the next day or two,” McLaughlin said. “Joe and the team have done a great job with him. He can be difficult, but we got him over the worst of it. He can just be hard to train, so I don’t want to change anything. It’s going good. He ships good. I don’t want to chance it. But he ran super yesterday, so he’ll train there for the Allen Jerkens.”
Takaful raised expectations with an eight-length romp in his debut at Belmont last October, but finished a distant third when stretching out to nine furlongs in Aqueduct’s Remsen Stakes (G2) to close out his juvenile campaign.
The Bernardini colt opened 2017 with two more well-beaten efforts while going a route of ground, running last of seven in the Jerome Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct and eighth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream in his first foray outside of New York.
Given some time after that latter March 4 contest, Takaful returned Friday to earn a 114 BRIS Speed rating while cutting back to six furlongs. It was his second attempt at a return after being scratched two weeks ago at Belmont by the veterinarian when running off with Oritz in the post parade.
“He was unlucky that day. He got away from the pony,” McLaughlin said. “I just told (Ortiz on Friday) to jog him to the gate. We put a lip cord on him and just jogged him to the gate. Last time, he just had a fight with the pony boy and just got unlucky. But it worked out because we (returned to) the winner’s circle.”