Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gulfstream Looms as Glory Road

 by Jim Freer                                                                                                                 29-Jan-14

  The fast and impressive wins by Cairo Prince and Top Billing last Saturday left many racing fans thinking  that “the road to the Kentucky Derby will go through Gulfstream Park” this year.
Meanwhile, the road to glory for 3-year-old sprinters is forming and Gulfstream will have an important stop this Saturday with the $200,000 Hutcheson Stakes (Grade 2).
  On Monday, trainer Jose Garoffalo said he will enter his speedy Wildcat Red in the seven-furlong Hutcheson. Garoffalo said that Wildcat Red has recovered from a cold that kept him out of  last Saturday’s 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull Stakes (Grade 2) at Gulfstream.
Wildcat Red might have been the fourth or fifth betting choice in the $400,000  Holy Bull, which Cairo Prince won by 5 ¾ lengths over the late-running Conquest Titan.
Wildcat Red’s last race was the Gulfstream Park Derby,  a one-turn  mile on Jan. 1.  He lost  by  a head to General a Rod after a lengthy  stretch  duel.

  Entries for the $200,000 Hutcheson will be drawn late Wednesday afternoon.  Corfu, Trail Blaze, Mighty Brown  and  Cool Cowboy are among  probable starters  in what looms  as a strong and deep field. On Friday, Inside Florida Horse Racing will have a preview of the Hutcheson.

  First, let’s review Cairo Prince’s dominant win in the Holy Bull and Top Billing’s  come-from-behind victory in a 1 1/16  mile allowance. Cairo Prince might be the Kentucky Derby favorite if it were run today. He has won three of four starts. His only loss was by a nose to Honor Code last Nov. 30 in the  1 1/8 mile Remsen (Grade 2) at Aqueduct.
  Cairo Prince is a son of  Pioneer of the Isle. That horse finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby,  won by 50-1 shot  Mine That Bird. Top Billing is less-experienced than most of the Holy Bull runners and his next race will be  his first stakes.  But some observers think he has talent, breeding and stamina that could get him to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on May 3.

* Holy Bull -- Cairo Prince showed the ability  to rate off a fast pace set by Coup  de Grace and Almost Famous. They hit six furlongs  in 1:10.30, with Almost Famous leading Mr. Speaker by a half  length and Cairo Prince another 1 ½ lengths back in third place. Cairo Prince, ridden by Luis Saez, began  accelerating.  He took the lead at the top of the stretch  and powered  home unchallenged, with Saez making sure to give him some taps with  the whip.
In the Remsen, Cairo Prince  appeared to lose some interest when he took the lead. He wound up getting nipped at the wire by Honor Code.
  Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin criticized Saez after the Remsen,  but kept him on the horse.
Cairo Prince won the  Holy Bull in 1:42.16,  the third fastest time for 1 1/16 miles  on  dirt at Gulfstream since it resumed races at that distance in 2012. Cairo Prince “had a  beautiful trip” and  “made a statement,” McLaughlin said.
  Conquest Titan and third place finisher Intense Holiday rallied from 11th  and 10th  place respectively after a half  mile and could have big  potential in upcoming  stakes races of 1 1/8 miles or longer. But in the Holy Bull, it appeared  that neither would catch Cairo Prince no matter the distance.

  Almost Famous finished fourth.  He led briefly coming out of the turn, and fought on until tiring in the final 50 yards. He could have a  strong  future as a miler.
*  Top Billing’s win -- Top Billing came into Saturday’s race with a win in his debut at Laurel Park  in Maryland on Dec. 6 and a second by a neck to the highly regarded Commissioner  in  a 1 1/8 mile allowance on Jan. 3 at Gulfstream. The son of two-time Eclipse Horse of  the Year Curlin was last after a half mile in those  races and on Saturday. In Saturday’s race,  he  made his move on the outside and beat early leader Surfing  U.S.A. by 2  ¾ lengths.
  Top Billing won  under jockey Joel Rosario in 1:42.66--exactly  one-half second slower than  Cairo Prince.

  Trainer Shug McGaughey said Top Billing’s next race will be a stakes.
It probably won’t be the 1 1/8 mile Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at Gulfstream on  Feb. 22.  McGaughey  also trains Honor Code, and  is pointing  that  horse toward the Fountain of Youth.
“Our plan is to keep them apart as long as possible,” McGaughey  said following Top Billing’s win on Saturday. Top Billing was slow in growing and maturing last summer. Thus, McGaughey did not race him until December. He showed similar patience last year with Orb. That  horse went on to win the  Fountain of Youth, Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.
One sure bet is that there will soon be more comparisons of Top Billing and Orb, who also was a closer. Later this week, Inside Florida Horse Racing will  look at where Cairo Prince and Top billing  might be headed next on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Follow us on twitter: JimFreer@HorseRacingFLA

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