Cairo Prince heads up worktab of Florida Derby contenders

Edited Gulfstream Park release:

Cairo Prince, the likely favorite for the Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29, worked five furlongs Saturday morning in 1:00.80 at the Palm Meadows Training Center. Off since his authoritative display in the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes on January 25, the 3-year-old went in company with elder stablemate Elnaawi and forged ahead in the final stages of the exercise.

“He worked very well,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We didn’t want another 59 and change (breeze) from him. We put him in different company this time and he went a minute and four fifths. He kind of eased up the last part, the rider did, but we’re very happy with him. That’s what we wanted. We wanted 1:01, so that’s perfect.”

Purchased for $250,000 as a yearling at Keeneland, Cairo Prince started his career for the partnership of Namcook Stables, Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson III. Earlier this month, it was revealed that a majority interest in the son of Pioneerof the Nile had been sold to Darley for an undisclosed sum. The sophomore will carry Godolphin’s blue colors in the flagship Gulfstream event.

McLaughlin had originally intended to start Cairo Prince in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 22, but opted to train up to nine-furlong Florida Derby instead. The colt has shown tactical speed in each of his four starts to date, and McLaughlin expects that pattern to continue in two weeks’ time.

“It’s a little bit of a concern, because in the Fountain of Youth the two horses went gate to wire together,” McLaughlin added. “But (the track) seems to be pretty fair lately and we don’t come from last, although with all that speed in there we might be shuffled back. It’s okay. He’s doing great and we’re happy. We’ll work back next week and be ready for the Florida Derby.”

Joining Cairo Prince on the worktab Saturday was Fountain of Youth winner Wildcat Red. Trained by Jose Garoffalo for Honors Stable Corp., Wildcat Red went three furlongs in 34.61 seconds and a half-mile in 47.98 under regular exercise rider Paco Mendoza in his first work since winning the Feb. 22 Fountain of Youth by a head over General a Rod.

“The horse went very good. I think the track was a little bit fast, but he did it as easy as he usually does,” Garoffalo said. “I was expecting maybe 48 or so, but it was good. He is getting fitter and now with every race is getting better. The plan is on. We’re going to breeze him one more time next week and then we’ll be ready, hopefully.

Wildcat Red is also slated to make his next start in the Florida Derby, which will be his seventh career start, all at Gulfstream. In an effort to put some stamina into the colt with the sprint-laden pedigree, Garoffalo has taken a somewhat unconventional approach to his training.

“He gallops one time around, and then he finishes. The second time around is the breeze,” Garoffalo said. “When I’m going to run long and run a distance, I always do that. My breezes are not for speed. He’s got natural speed, so what he needs is the stamina. That kind of horse, I don’t breeze from the pole because they get too anxious. I relax the horse during the gallop and then let him go the last three-eighths or quarter of a mile. He did everything as we expect. We’re still going step-by-step, day-by day, but everything is good so far.”

Looking to get a strong work into General a Rod prior to his next scheduled start in the Florida Derby, trainer Mike Maker breezed the Gulfstream Park Derby winner five furlongs over the main track on Saturday.  Regular exercise rider Joel Barrientos was up for the work, which went in 59.50 seconds. Last Saturday, General a Rod went four furlongs in 51.26.

“He worked great,” Maker said. “He gave us exactly what we were looking for. He’s an easy horse. He can train himself. If you want to go fast, that’s fine; if you want to go slow, that’s fine, too. We picked it up a little today, and it was no problem at all.”

Maker plans to breeze General a Rod again next Saturday. Owned by J. Armando Rodriguez, the Roman Ruler colt was second in an optional claiming allowance on Nov. 30, opening day of the Championship meet, before beating Wildcat Red in the Gulfstream Park Derby and losing their rematch in the Fountain of Youth.

“He’s doing great,” Maker said. “We’re just hoping to keep him the same.”

Medal Count, who is also being considered for the Florida Derby, went five-eighths in 59.11 seconds for trainer Dale Romans at Gulfstream on Saturday. Jockey Corey Lanerie was aboard.

Owned by Spendthrift Farm, Medal Count was fifth in the Fountain of Youth after winning a 7 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance on the turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 12 to open his 3-year-old season.

Unbeaten Constitution, also among those under consideration for the Florida Derby, worked on Saturday at Palm Meadows as well covering five furlongs in 1:01.50.