by TERESA GENARO
The connections of Takaful have always thought that he’s a graded stakes horse, and in the Vosburgh (G1) at Belmont Park on Saturday, he proved them right with a breakthrough victory.
The 9-2 fourth choice in the seven-horse field, Takaful sat just off pacesetter El Deal, the 6-5 favorite coming off a win in the Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga in July. Trained by the recently embattled Jorge Navarro, El Deal broke from post 1 after acting up in the gate and was hustled by jockey Javier Castellano, while Takaful and José Ortiz ran comfortably just behind quick early fractions of :22.31 and :44.76.
Ortiz challenged El Deal coming off the final turn, taking aim at the resolute leader that refused to yield—but nor did the dogged Takaful, who wore down El Deal in the final strides to win by a length. The closing Stallwalkin’ Dude was third.
Laden with swag from the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Vosburgh, Shadwell assistant racing manager Joe DeSantis said the race played out exactly as he’d expected.
“We loved him being outside [El Deal],” he said. “I told José to ride his race, and in the paddock he said, ‘I’ve got enough natural speed and I’m going to sit right off him and pounce when they turn for him.’”
“When we entered the stretch, I knew Javier had horse but was not getting away from me, so I knew from the eighth pole it was going to be a horse race,” said Ortiz. “He really dug in and got the victory.”
Takaful, who negotiated six furlongs in 1:09.69, paid $11.80.
El Deal’s three-race winning streak was ended in the Vosburgh, and while Navarro observed that the track was “a little bit dead,” owing perhaps to its being sealed earlier in the card during a rainstorm, he said that his horse had no excuses.
“I’ll see how he cools out,” said the trainer. “We’re going to go over him with the vet right now.”
El Deal is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup.
By Bernardini, Takaful is a fourth-generation Shadwell homebred out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Sablah.
“This means a lot for the farm,” said DeSantis. “Sheikh Hamdan works so hard and spent so much to get this done. To have a homebred mare like this is so exciting.”
The win is Takaful’s third in seven starts and first in a stakes race. He was second to Practical Joke in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga last month. Two of his wins have come at six furlongs, the distance of the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint, to which Takaful earned a berth and traveling expenses with the Vosburgh win.
“We tried to go the Derby route and it didn’t work, and [Shadwell] let us get him right,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He’s a difficult horse in the mornings, but a fun horse when you end up in the winner’s circle.”