Cairo Prince made a spectacular 2014 debut in the $400,000 Miller
Lite Holy Bull Stakes (G2) on Jan. 25, sweeping around horses on the
turn and drawing off to an exciting 5 ¾-length victory. While
demonstrating an abundant amount of class, talent and professionalism,
the 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile left Gulfstream Park fans
wanting to see more.
Anticipation for what Cairo Prince will do for an encore has been
building for eight long weeks, but the Thoroughbred world will finally
get the chance to see the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained star back in action
Saturday in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1).
After Cairo Prince registered his third victory in four starts in the
Holy Bull, McLaughlin decided to bypass the $400,000 Besilu Stables
Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on Feb. 22 and train the Kentucky-bred
colt up to Gulfstream’s signature race, which will anchor a 12-race
program with eight stakes, including seven graded, and more than $2
million in purses (NBC Sports Network, 6:30-7:30 p.m).
McLaughlin is expecting the exact same Cairo Prince that won the Holy
Bull to show up at Gulfstream Saturday to take on seven rivals entered
Wednesday morning for the 63rd running of the Florida Derby.
“I don’t want to see any changes. I don’t want any changes. This is a
special horse. All I want to do is keep him sound and healthy and to
get him in the starting gate,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t want to see any
changes. Changes would be negative. He couldn’t be doing any
McLaughlin will bring back Cairo Prince from the two-month layoff
with a high degree of confidence that his colt will be in top form,
having established a record of excellence in returning major stakes
horses from long layoffs, most notably with 2006 Horse of the Year
Invasor, who captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) off a scheduled
“We have a great team of help. But more importantly, I’m going to say
it’s more about the horses,” McLaughlin said. “Every day of training is
important. We get a lot of miles in, but I don’t feel like we do
anything different from anyone else off the layoff. It’s spotting them
well in races, and it’s the horse. It’s important to have the right
Cairo Prince, who was installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite for
the Florida Derby, brings an imposing record into the premiere prep that
has produced the winners of 57 Triple Crown events. He broke his maiden
at first asking with a 2 ¾-length victory at Belmont last year on Oct. 8
and came right back to win the Nashua (G2) by 2 ½ lengths on Nov. 3. He
came up a nose short of capturing the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct on Nov.
30 while conceding six pounds to victorious Honor Code. Nearly two
months later, he ran away with the Holy Bull to establish himself as the
top-ranking Triple Crown prospect.
Despite his stellar record, Cairo Prince is hardly assured of
qualifying for the first leg of the Triple Crown, having amassed only 14
points. He will need a victory or a second-place finish under jockey
Luis Saez in the Florida Derby to be assured of making it to Louisville
on the first Saturday in May. The Florida Derby has 170 points up for
grabs with 100 going to the winner, 40 to the place horse, 20 to the
show horse and 10 for the fourth-place finisher.
“I don’t care what system they use, they’ve got to have a safeguard
of having three spots, five spots that the racing secretary can fill
with horses that deserve to run that don’t have enough points,” said
McLaughlin, who trains Cairo Prince for Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley, Harvey
Clarke, W. Craig Robertson III, Paul Braverman and J. Terrence Murray.
“The Breeders’ Cup does it. It works fine.“What if Cairo Prince drops
the rider warming up and scratches? He should be in the Derby, but we
only have 14 points. There’s no safeguard. They want us in there because
he’s one of the best horses.”
While Cairo Prince was training for the Florida Derby, Wildcat Red
picked up enough points to qualify for the first leg of the Triple Crown
while posting a courageous narrow triumph over General a Rod in the 1
1/16-mile Fountain of Youth. The son of D’Wildcat has won five of six
lifetime starts, all at Gulfstream, since breaking his maiden by six
lengths last September, his only defeat being a narrow loss to General a
Rod in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1.
The Jose Garoffalo-trained colt rebounded to win the seven-furlong
$200,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G3) on Feb. 1 by 4 ¾ lengths before
successfully stretching out around two turns for the first time in the
Fountain of Youth, in which he was involved in a race-long battle with
General a Rod before edging that rival. Garoffalo is confident that
Honor Stable Corp.’s Florida-bred colt will carry his speed over 1 1/8
“I think it’s going to be easier, still easier for him, because the
pace is supposed to be slower. I think the slower he goes, the further
he can go,” Garoffalo said. “I’m not worried about the extra half of a
furlong in the race – that’s going to be in the favor of my
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is scheduled to ride Wildcat Red,
rated second at 3-1 in the morning line, for the first time.
“I feel it’s going to be a tough race, but the horse has been
training very good and the horse has been feeling very good,” Garoffalo
said. “There is no reason not to be confident.”
General a Rod’s trainer, Michael Maker, said longer distances will
only help the son of Roman Ruler, who was rated third at 7-2 in the
“You guys haven’t seen it yet but I think his best asset is going to
be his tactical speed,” Maker said. “He’s got a high cruising speed, and
I think you’ll see the true General a Rod once the distances
General a Rod debuted with a 2 ¾-length victory at seven furlongs at
Keeneland last October before finishing second behind Conquest Titan in a
mile allowance at Churchill on Nov. 30. J. Armando Rodriguez’s colt
outdueled Wildcat Red in the Gulfstream Derby on Jan. 1 before losing
the decision by a head to the same rival in the Fountain of
“He was always a good-looking horse that made an impression right
away as soon as he stepped into the barn,” Maker said. “He has never
Joel Rosario, who was aboard for the Gulfstream Park Derby win and
rode Orb to a Florida Derby victory last year, will be reunited with
General a Rod for the Florida Derby.
Constitution has hardly been a disappointment in his two lifetime
starts, both convincing victories at Gulfstream Park. The Todd
Pletcher-trained colt broke his maiden at first asking on Jan. 11
despite a slow start before capturing an entry-level 1 1/16-mile
allowance on the front-end by 3 ¼ lengths in a time that compared
favorably with that registered by Wildcat Red in the Fountain of Youth
later in the day. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Tapit was rated
fourth in the morning line at 4-1 for his quantum leap to Grade 1
“It takes a very talented, quality horse to do that. It’s something
that we don’t often try. We only do it with horses that we feel like
merit that type of consideration,” said Pletcher, who trains
Constitution for Twin Creeks Racing and WinStar Farm. “He’s been perfect
so far. Both of his races have been very good. He showed heart and
determination in his first race when he didn’t break well. His second
race went as we planned. He’s a horse that always trained like he’s
capable of those type of efforts, but at the same time you have to
respect what a difficult thing it is to do in only his third lifetime
Leading rider Javier Castellano has the return mount on Constitution.
Spot, who finished fifth behind Wildcat Red in the Hutcheson in his
stakes debut, made his first start for owner Joseph Moss and trainer
Nick Zito a winning one in the $200,000 Swale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream
on March 1. The gelded son of Pulpit sat off the pace before making a
sweeping move to the lead and upsetting heavily favored No Nay Never by 2
½ lengths in the seven-furlong stakes.
Zito, who has named Corey Lanerie to ride, said he has witnessed Spot
continue to blossom in his training since his impressive Swale
“I’ve been in enough of these things to know that you need to get
good at the right time,” said Zito, who has saddled three Florida Derby
winners: High Fly (2005), Ice Box (2010) and Dialed In
Spot is rated at 8-1 in the morning line.
Matador , a late-running colt who finished fourth in the Sam F Davis
(G3) and fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), will be equipped with
blinkers for the first time by trainer Mark Casse with the hope of
getting the son of Malibu Moon to show a little more early interest in
the race. Rated at 15-1 in the morning line, Matador is owned by John C.
Oxley and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
East Hall, who finished a late-closing third in the Gulfstream Derby
and fourth in the Fountain of Youth before finishing a disappointing
eighth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), is rated at 20-1 in the morning
line. Trainer Bill Kaplan named Juan Leyva to ride the son of Graeme
Hall, who is owned by H. Jack Hendricks and Roger Justice.
Crossed Sabres Farm’s Allstar , a recent allowance winner at Calder,
is 30-1 in the morning line. Trainer Marcus Vitali and jockey Orlando
Bocachica both registered the first Grade 1 victories of their
respective careers with Lochte’s upset in the Gulfstream Park Turf
Handicap on Feb. 8.