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.
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