McLaughlin was born in an area of the country where horse racing and breeding is preeminent. One of his childhood friends was the son of trainer James Burchell and his first job was as a hotwalker. He was a student at the University of Kentucky for a year before he decided focus on pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred horse racing industry. He spent close to three years as an assistant for various trainers before going to work for U.S. Racing Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas in 1985. In 1992 he became the agent for jockey Chris Antley, a job he held until November 1993 when he signed on as the trainer for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai. He was leading trainer in Dubai three times and has campaigned multiple graded stakes winners.
In 1998, Kiaran McLaughlin was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis.
For ten years, Kiaran McLaughlin spent half of each year working in Dubai and half in the New York City area. In both locations he trained horses for Sheikh Mohammed and his brother, Sheikh Hamdan. He was the leading trainer at Dubai's Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on three occasions: 1994-95, 1995–96 and 2002-2003. In 1995, he shipped Dumaani to Japan and won the $1.5 million Keio Hai Spring Cup at Tokyo Racecourse at odds of 56-1.
McLaughlin returned to the U.S. permanently in 2003 and opened a public stable in New York. Among his clients are Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing and Sheikh Hamden's Shadwell Racing. McLaughlin won his first Grade I race in 2003 with Lunar Sovereign in the Man o' War Stakes. In 2006, he trained Shadwell's colt Jazil, who won the Belmont Stakes, and had enormous success with Invasor, Shadwell's newly acquired four-year-old Argentinian colt. Invasor won several Grade I races in the U.S. including the Breeders' Cup Classic, for which he earned U.S. Horse of the Year honors and the number 1 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Ranking. McLaughlin's 2006 season earned him the New York Turf Writers Association (NYTWA) C.V. Whitney Achievement Award and a share of the Red Smith "Good Guy" Award with fellow trainer Tom Albertrani.
In March 2007, Invasor won the world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup with Invasor. Also in 2007, McLaughlin trained Lahudood to victories in the Flower Bowl Invitational and the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, for which she earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Turf Mare.
On March 12, 2012, McLaughlin earned his 1,000th North American career win at Aqueduct Racetrack with Que Posse. Later that year at Saratoga, McLaughlin scored Grade I victories with Emcee in the Forego Stakes, Alpha in the Travers Stakes and Questing in both the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama Stakes. Questing would be named champion three-year-old filly.
In 2015, McLaughlin trained Frosted, owned by his oldest client Sheikh Mohammed, to victories in the Wood Memorial and Pennsylvania Derby, also finishing second to American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes.
In 2016, Frosted returned to win the Gr. 1 Metropolitan Handicap in record breaking time and the Gr. 1 Whitney Handicap. He also has experienced success this year with Stonestreet Stables' Cavorting, who won the Gr. 1 Personal Engsign and the Gr. 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes.
Another notable runner this year for the McLaughlin stable has been Lady Shipman, who has 5 of 7 starts, all in stakes races. Lady Shipman, owned by Ranlo Investments LLC, won the Gr. 3 Royal North Stakes at Woodbine in addition to winning stakes at Gulfstream, Belmont Park, Pimlico, Woodbine, and Parx Racing.
|Trainer Rank (2003–present)||By Earnings|
- Kiaran McLaughlin's Official Blog
- Kiaran McLaughlin at the NTRA
- Kiaran McLaughlin Racing Stable official website
- NYRA Press Office - 2006 NYTWA Award Winners
- Kiaran McLaughlin at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, New York City Chapter
- Career wins from Equibase include North America only