Edited Gulfstream Park release:
Cairo Prince, the probable favorite in next Saturday’s Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, breezed an easy half-mile in 50.90 seconds Saturday morning at Palm Meadows.
“He went great. We were looking for a 49ish, but it doesn’t matter. It was just a maintenance work, his last work. He did it great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We’re all set for next weekend.”
Exercise rider Rob Massey was aboard for the sixth workout at Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County since capturing the Grade II Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Jan. 25.
“He went by himself. We didn’t want a 47,” McLaughlin said. “He was perfect. It could have been a tiny bit faster, but we know he can go faster. We were just looking for a maintenance work.”
Cairo Prince has proven he can run fast during the afternoon. The son of Pioneerof the Nile has won three of four starts, including a 5 ¾-length triumph in the Holy Bull. He made a wide sweeping move under regular jockey Luis Saez around the final turn before drawing off with speed to spare.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley purchased a majority interest in Cairo Prince since his last start, while Harvey Clarke, W. Craig Robertson III, Paul Braverman and J. Terrence Murray retained an interest in the Kentucky-bred colt.
Joining Cairo Prince on the Saturday worktab were a quartet of Triple Crown contenders who hit the main track together on a busy Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park.
Wildcat Red, Social Inclusion and Honor Code each put in timed works through a light rain shortly after 7:30 a.m. Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod was also out for a routine gallop, and will breeze for trainer Mike Maker on Sunday.
After galloping once around the track, Grade III Hutcheson and Grade II Fountain of Youth winner Wildcat Red went three furlongs in 35.49 seconds and galloped out through the wire in 48.81 for a half-mile. Owned by Honors Stable Corp., Wildcat Red will make his next start in the Florida Derby.
“He did his job. He did what he usually does,” trainer Jose Garoffalo said. “We were happy with the workout and he came back full of himself. It’s one more step. Everything seems good, so the plan is still on. We hope to enter the horse on Wednesday and run next Saturday.”
The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby will be the seventh lifetime start for Wildcat Red, all at Gulfstream Park. He has four wins from six races and was second by a head to General a Rod in the Gulfstream Park Derby.
“The closer we get to the race, the more excited you are,” Garoffalo said, “But we’re ok, we’re handling it with no rush. We’re just waiting for the race, and that’s it. We’re still on the way.”
Social Inclusion, working for the first time since his record-setting allowance victory over Honor Code at Gulfstream on March 12, went three furlongs in 36 seconds with jockey Luis Contreras up.
“He looked perfect, wonderful,” trainer Manny Azpurua said. “He was spectacular. He went so easily and he came back like he didn’t even want a drink of water. The rider was so pleased about the way he went. The main thing is he’s a very sound horse and he feels good. He’s just doing everything right.”
Owner Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing Stable said Social Inclusion will stay at Gulfstream and work three-eighths again on March 26 and 29 before leaving March 30 for his next start in the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5.
“It was our original plan and we won’t change the plan. We have to give him some time. We think he can win anywhere,” Sanchez said. “He had a very easy workout, very relaxed. He doesn’t need much. The jockey doesn’t even ask him to run. He came back with no sign of being tired at all and full of energy. We’ll see what happens.”
Sanchez received several offers to purchase the horse after his 10-length victory in 1:40.97 for 8 ½ furlongs, but no decision has been made.
Also working for the first time since that race was Honor Code, who was clocked in 48.12 seconds for a half-mile and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.60.
“I thought he went good,” Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said. “I watched from the backside so I don’t know what he went in, but I thought he went fine. He’s doing very good.”
McGaughey plans to work Honor Code again at Gulfstream on March 29 and then ship to New York for the Wood Memorial.
“We just wanted to see what his energy level is and see how he comes out of it and whether he moves forward or not,” he said. “I think he’s come out of his race good and is going in the right direction. I just want to make sure he keeps going in the right direction.”
General a Rod will work at 7:30 on Sunday morning at Gulfstream and make his next start in the Florida Derby.
Matador, another likely candidate for the Florida Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 Saturday morning at Palm Meadows.
“He worked well. We put a little sharper breeze into him leading up to the race. We’re hoping to keep him a little closer to the pace,” said trainer Mark Casse, whose son and assistant Norman supervised the breeze.
The son of worked in blinkers for the workout, the third fastest of 19 recorded at the distance, and will race in blinkers for the first time in the Florida Derby.
Matador broke his maiden on turf last season before finishing a close fourth in the Grade III Sam F. Davis over Tampa Bay Downs’ main track. In the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, he lagged far behind the field before closing to fifth.
“He loves the dirt. He’s really trained well at Palm Meadows,” Casse said. “Julien said he couldn’t get him motivated last time, so we’re going to give blinkers a try.”
Florida Derby prospect Constitution had a half-mile tune-up in 49.30 seconds at Palm Meadows Saturday morning. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is undefeated in two starts, both during Gulfstream’s Champions Meet. The son of Tapit broke his maiden on Jan. 11 before turning in a dazzling 3 ½-length victory in an allowance race on Feb. 22.
Florida Derby nominee Spot, who captured the Grade II Swale Stakes by 2 ½ lengths at Gulfstream on March 1, turned in the fastest of 74 half-mile breezes at Palm Meadows with a :47.70 clocking.
After producing his ‘bullet’ workout, trainer Nick Zito confirmed Spot would make his next start in the Florida Derby. Zito conferred with owner Joseph Moss following the workout, in which regular exercise rider Maxine Correa was aboard.
“I just got off the phone with Mr. Moss. He said to me, “Nick, I obviously want to run in the big race with him. I want to try. It may be too early, but it also might be too late, but there isn’t anything against trying,” Zito said. “So he’s leaving it up to me.’ I told him, ‘I’m leaning towards the Florida Derby.’ He just said, ‘Just use good judgment.’”
Jose Lezcano, who rode Spot to victory in the Swale, is scheduled to ride Twilight Eclipse in the $5 million Sheema Classic in Dubai next Saturday.
“I don’t have Lezcano, but I’ve never seen a horse go out for a big race without a jockey on it,” Zito said. “Right now I’m leaning toward Corey Lanerie. He rides there all the time. He’s a good rider, a good guy.”