Cairo Prince returned to his winning ways with a dominant victory in the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 25.
After experiencing a less-than-perfect trip while losing his first career race by a nose to Honor Code in the Remsen Stakes (G2), Cairo Prince asserted himself with a 5 ¾-length victory under a trouble-free ride by Luis Saez.
“I love for the horse to make the statement, but it’s hard not to get excited when you have these kind,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He just had a beautiful trip and when he asked him, he responded. He won carrying 122 (pounds), giving a lot of weight away. He won impressively.”
The 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile stalked the early pace while clear on the outside, as Coup de Grace and Almost Famous showed the way to the 11-horse field around the first turn and along the backstretch. After setting solid fractions of :23.63 and :46.75 for the first half mile, Coupe de Grace and jockey John Velazquez dropped out of contention on the far turn, as Almost Famous and jockey Calvin Borel inherited the lead, immediately challenged by Mr Speaker and Cairo Prince to his outside.
Mr Speaker, the Dania Beach (G3) winner making his first start on dirt, backed out of contention leaving the turn into the homestretch, as Cairo Prince swept to the lead on the outside and drew away with authority. Conquest Titan, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, closed from last to finish second, a half-length ahead of Intense Holiday and jockey Joel Rosario. Almost Famous faded to fourth.
“He broke so well and the whole race I kept him in the clear. When we got to the half-mile pole, I know I have a lot of horse. When we got to the three-eighths pole, I knew I could win the race so when we came into the stretch I asked him and he responded,” said Saez, whose victorious mount was set to post as the 2-1 favorite. “He just took off. I had so much horse. He’s a nice horse.”
Cairo Prince ran 1 1/16 miles in a swift 1:42.16 while collecting his third victory in four starts, including a maiden score and a Nashua Stakes (G2) romp. The margin of victory was the largest in the Holy Bull since Suave Prospect scored by eight lengths in 1995.
“I felt like I was in control pretty much. I didn’t have any trouble,” Saez said. “I know everyone wanted to beat me so I kept him in the clear and when we came into the stretch I felt I was going to win the race.”
Cairo Prince is owned by Harvey Clarke, W. Craig Robertson, Namcook Stables and Paul Braverman, the same connections that visited the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle with Soldat following the 2011 Fountain of Youth.
“We’ll look at the Fountain of Youth Feb. 22 or we could wait until the Florida Derby (March 29). We’ll see how it goes,” said McLaughlin of the two remaining major Kentucky Derby preps at Gulfstream. “I hope he stays as good as he is today. He’ll have one or two more (races).”
Should Cairo Prince run next in the Fountain of Youth, he’d likely clash with Honor Code, the Remsen winner who is being pointed to the key Florida Derby prep.
“We gave him six pounds (in the Remsen) and got beat a nose. We felt we were the best horse and we’re marching on,” McLaughlin said. “There are plenty of good horses out there and we hope we can keep making it.”
The Kentucky-bred Cairo Prince earned 10 points in Churchill Downs’ qualifying system for the Kentucky Derby with his dominant score in the Holy Bull.
McLaughlin has been unusually high on Cairo Prince from the start of his most promising career.
“He trains exceptionally well. He’s got a great mind. A lot of times you don’t get those two things in the same package,” McLaughlin said. “He does everything right and he is a neat horse to be around. He’s got a great stride and a great mind.”
While no match for the winner, Conquest Titan pleased trainer Mark Casse with his last-to-second performance.
“It was a nice run, we were happy with it. We had hoped to not be so far back, but going into the first turn, they sandwiched him, so Shaun did the right thing and took him back. This is not the easiest place to come from out of it,” said Casse, whose colt was coming off an allowance score at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30. “We wanted to know if he fit with these horses and I think he proved that today. He has a special place he likes really well (Churchill Downs) and they run there on the first Saturday in May, so that’s good. I’ll have to talk to the owner, but we’ll probably stay here.”
Gulfstream Park Publicity
Gulfstream Park photo by Leslie Martin