Post-Breeders’ Cup of every year, there is always a lull in racing of the highest quality here in the United States. We generally have to keep our impatience at bay until the big holiday weekend of Thanksgiving. It’s true again this year, however I already have my engines revving up for some biggies that could go down soon after the turkey pops out of the oven. How does a Clark Handicap of Game On Dude, Will Take Charge, and several of the Midwest’s best sound? An enticing possibility for sure, but what about a race that we could still be talking about next spring? Look no further than Aqueduct’s Remsen Stakes, and a probable meeting between potential stars, Honor Code and Cairo Prince.
Sure the Remsen is still three weeks away, and we never know what might happen, but today, I am very excited about the possibility. Honor Code, after only two races, stands at the top of just about everyone’s list of top 2014 Kentucky Derby candidates. Skipping the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, to wait for the Remsen, is a tactic that many believe will pay off big when the first Saturday in May rolls around. He’s expected to go off heavily favored in the Remsen, but somethings a brewing at the Big A, that might just spoil Honor Code’s best laid Remsen plans. His name is Cairo Prince, and he also has made just two career starts, but as you will soon see, he also could be any kind.
Makings of this early showdown began one afternoon at Saratoga. August 31 to be precise, when a well-intended runner from the Shug McGaughey barn dropped way back in the first few furlongs of a sloppy maiden special weight. Looking to be dead in the dirty water of the Spa, Honor Code began to summon a power rarely seen in first-timers. Shooting up the rail with the power of Zeus, the well bred son of A.P. Indy went from last to first in a shot, before strolling home an easy winner in the seven furlong race. The buzz was immediate, and why not? Not only is this one’s serious talent all too evident, but with great grandparents like, Secretariat, Bold Reasoning, Mr. Prospector, My Charmer, Storm Bird, Serena’s Song, Lassie Dear, and Terlingua, Honor Code has more blue blood coursing through his veins than the Queen of England.
While Honor Code prepared to jump straight from maidens to grade 1 company, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin looked for a spot to debut Cairo Prince. Both would happen on the first weekend of October.
First on October 5, Honor Code joined a field of nine for the historic, and prestigious Champagne Stakes. The buzz on the Lane’s End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm owned runner was so loud that he was made a 9-5 favorite off only the one race. He would not disappoint. Of course, he did not win either. Proving that he required neither Saratoga, nor the slop to run big, Honor Code languished at the back of the pack once again, before uncorking a massive late charge. Needing to slingshot eight wide as the field turned for home, he ran out of room in the one-turn mile, just missing the win to Havana. Game performances by Champagne rivals, Havana and Strong Mandate in the BC Juvenile, did nothing to tarnish the reputation of of the current Kentucky Derby Future favorite.
In the relative quiet of the day after the Champagne, Cairo Prince would make his career debut. The son of Pioneerof the Nile made his first start in a six-furlong sprint at the same Belmont Park track that hosted Honor Code the day before. Sitting just off a fast early pace, the 2-1 chance waited for his cue from rider, Luis Saez, and when that came, the answer was immediate. A quick burst saw him open up three lengths in the bat of an eye, before coasting home just a shade over 1:10 on the fast track. Little fanfare ensued, but it did give the connections reason to bring him back in graded stakes racing for his next start.
This time at Aqueduct, the Nashua Stakes served as Cairo Prince’s introduction to stakes racing. This one came on November 3, or the day after the Breeders’ Cup, so once again, his performance was slightly lost in the shuffle. It should not have been. Doing very much what he did in his maiden, Cairo Prince broke well and moved into a good stalking position from his far outside post position. This one was at one-mile, so Luis Saez could wait a bit longer to push the button, but once he did, this grade 2 race was as good as fait accompli. Bursting off the turn as if the other 11 Nashua horses weren’t even there, Cairo Prince lengthened his advantage with every stride until the eighth pole. From there, he coasted home an easier winner than the 2 ½ length margin would suggest.
It may be still three weeks away, but with the promise these two newcomers have suggested in their young careers, the Remsen could be something special. Honor Code vs. Cairo Prince I … Let’s get it on!