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Impressive Three-Year-Olds Find the Gulfstream Winner's Circle

Cairo Prince HB 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
With 2014 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks prep races continuing this weekend, we wanted to take a quick look back at last weekend’s impressive three-year-old winners at Gulfstream.  

TimeformUS PPs

The headline race was the $400,000 Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes and it was won in absolutely dominant fashion by Cairo Prince.

Conceding between two to six pounds of weight to his 10 rivals, Cairo Prince enjoyed an outside tracking trip. He overwhelmed his pace targets on the far turn on his way to a lopsided victory by almost six lengths. 

Cairo Prince was assigned a strong 104 TimeformUS speed figure for his performance, and that speed figure represents the fastest figure in a two-turn race by any horse in this crop to date. Prior to the Holy Bull Stakes, Shared Belief (103 speed figure in the Hollywood Futurity) had owned that distinction. 

Always a very good looking horse, Cairo Prince sold for $250,000 as a yearling. That amount made him the most expensive of 57 different Pioneerof the Nile sired yearlings to sell at public auction in 2012.

In terms of pedigree, Cairo Prince gets his stamina from his aforementioned sire Pioneerof the Nile, who finished a distant second to Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. The dam of Cairo Prince is Holy Bubbette, and she was an extremely quick Graded Stakes placed sprinter who never even attempted at a distance beyond seven furlongs.

Cairo Prince is a three-quarter sibling to the quick Nonna Mia (Empire Maker-Holy Bubbette) who set the pace before finishing third in a very exciting edition of the 2009 Frizette behind future stars Devil May Care and Awesome Maria.

Cairo Prince is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, a man who seemingly had the Kentucky Derby won with 71/1 longshot Closing Argument in 2005, before a last gasp surge from Giacomo got him up in the final strides. Closing Argument finished second, beaten just a half length, while another half length clear of that years third-place Derby finisher Afleet Alex. 

All in all, Cairo Prince is a very promising prospect who has done nothing wrong in his career to this point.  After an impressive debut win, he was much the best in his Nashua victory second time out. His only defeat to date was by a nose when Honor Code nailed him late in a very slow paced Remsen, a race which strangely found him behind Honor Code in the early and middle stages.

There has been a lot of attention given to Holy Bull second place finisher Conquest Titan, but we believe it's largely without merit. Conquest Titan simply languished behind a very honest early pace, and grinded his way past all the horses left in the wake of Cairo Prince. 

The day’s other exceptional performance at Gulfstream came from the Shug McGaughey-trained Top Billing in an entry level allowance race hours before the Holy Bull.

Showing absolutely no early speed, Top Billing languished in last place early, before making a visually impressive and sweeping four-wide turn move. The promising Pletcher-trained Surfing U S A had no answer for Top Billing, who won going away and was even taken in hand in deep stretch by Joel Rosario. 

That winning performance earned Top Billing a solid TimeformUS speed figure of 97. An unfortunate reality is that the public always seems to go overboard for deep closing horses who perform well at Gulfstream Park, due to the silly perception that Gulfstream is some speed biased paradise.

Generally, since Gulfstream Park's renovation prior to 2005, these highly touted deep closing three-year-olds usually prove to be busts more often than not. Obviously, horses like Orb and Ice Box are exceptions, because both ran huge in the Kentucky Derby. However, in both instances, they ran huge in the Kentucky Derby on a wet track, with an eye-popping fast pace, and both Orb and Ice Box never achieved much after the Kentucky Derby. Orb never finished better than third in four starts after the Derby. Ice Box never finished better than third in numerous starts after the Derby. 

While the horses with running styles like Dialed In and Orb really excite the public when they win at Gulfstream Park, a lot of very good three-year-olds have run speed-and-fade type races at Gulfstream. Indeed, Mucho Macho Man set the pace in the Holy Bull stakes, and he faded to finish in fourth place. 

Even if he's a little bit over-hyped right now, Top Billing is a very serious horse with an excellent route pedigree. He’s a son of Curlin, and his dam Parade Queen was an excellent deep-closing router for trainer Neil Howard in the late 1990's. Most interesting about his pedigree, Top Billing is a half sibling to Untouched Talent, the dam of the sensationally brilliant Bodemeister.

TimeformUS PPs


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Older Comments about Impressive Three-Year-Olds Find the Gulfstream Winner's Circle...

Doug. I never comment on your articles, but I have a been a big fan of your's. You are probably my favorite writer on here, and that is a big compliment, when you are up against the likes of Floridaf and others. However, I flat out disagree with you here, on several aspects. First of all. You said people get carried away with deep closers and overhype those style of runners. Personally, I have found it the opposite. Many people seem to overhype the babies that win by 5+ lengths consistently (Shanghai Bobby, Verrazano, etc). Many people jump on these bandwagons. I've always thought those people who like those horses are just taking the easy way out (instead of picking an underdog, like I did with Palace Malice). But, that's another conversation for another day. I look at it from the perspective that my horse I follow must show the ability to be able to be formidable as the races' distances increase. Top Billing's peak form is not at 8.5f. It's going to be at 10f or higher. I also disagree with you that Top Billing is being overhyped. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, in my eyes, Top Billing is the best in the country, and I've been saying that (or at least that he is talented) since before his maiden, but of course my talk started after his second race. This crop is deep and I am a fan of many of the horses. However, from my perspective, no horse can run like this guy can. When asked, Top Billing goes into a whole 'nother gear. He changes gears in the matter of 1-2 strides, and that impresses me and is a huge bonus. He defeated Surfing U S A (another colt w/ Stakes potential) by 2 3/4 lengths without the use of the whip; coming from way off the pace of a speed bias surface. And, again, I disagree. Gulfstream IS speed favoring, especially on big days like the Holy Bull.
i wouldn't call top billing over rated at all
Top Billing is a true Curlin colt - looking forward to see how he progresses this year....

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