Cairo Prince Favored at 9-5 for Saturday’s $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL– Multiple graded-stakes winner Cairo Prince was installed as the 9-5 program favorite in a field of eight 3-year-olds entered on Wednesday for Saturday’s 63rd running of the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
Dominant winner of the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream on Jan. 25 in his most recent start, Cairo Prince will break from the No. 3 post under regular rider Luis Saez. All horses will carry 122 pounds. “He’s happy, and we’re happy with post three,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Cairo Prince for Godolphin Stable, Terry Murray, Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson. “There’s a lot of speed in there, so I think we’ll be coming from behind. He’s doing great. He galloped today, and we’re very happy with him.” The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby anchors a 14-race program that offers eight stakes including the $300,000 Gulfstream Oaks (G2), $200,000 Pan American (G2), $150,000 Rampart (G3), $150,000 Orchid (G3), $100,000 Appleton (G3) and $100,000 Skip Away (G3). It will be part of a one-hour telecast on NBC Sports Network from 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Honors Stable Corp.’s Wildcat Red, winner of the Hutcheson (G3) and Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream in February, drew the rail and is second choice on the morning line at 3-1.
“I’m OK with the post position,” trainer Jose Garoffalo said. “He’s the speed of the race. He can go on the lead and the post position will be in favor of him. He likes the inside. He likes to go inside horses. His previous two races, he was on the inside and got beat (a head) and the other one he won. It’s going to be OK. He’s got the ability and the versatility to rate. I’m not worried about the post position. This track, the No. 1 is favorable for a mile and an eighth.”
A narrow third choice at 7-2, General a Rod beat Wildcat Red by a head in the Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1 before losing by the same margin in the Feb. 22 Fountain of Youth. Joel Rosario will be aboard from the No. 6 post.
“The 6 is good. We’ve got to press him (Wildcat Red). If Constitution chooses to do so, that would be fine too,” trainer Mike Maker said. “The speed’s to our inside, so it kind of gives us options, whereas everybody else might be forced to force their hand a little.”
Twin Creeks Racing Stables and WinStar Farm’s unbeaten Constitution will be making his stakes debut in the Florida Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher from the No. 4 post. The Tapit colt owns two wins at the Champions Meet, a maiden victory on Jan. 11 and an entry-level allowance at 8 ½ furlongs on Feb. 22.
“He's doing very well,” Pletcher said. “We're very pleased with the way he's coming into the race. I'm happy with post 4. We're outside of Wildcat Red and inside of General a Rod, so we're looking for a forwardly placed position. We'll play it off the break and let Javier (Castellano) make that decision as things unfold.”
Spot, upset winner of the seven-furlong Swale (G2) at Gulfstream on March 1, drew the outside No. 8 post and will be ridden by Corey Lanerie. Trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, a three-time Florida Derby winner, Spot is 8-1 on the morning line.
“The last two pills were 1 and 8, and I would have preferred the 1,” Zito said. “I do a lot of handicapping and I’ve watched Gulfstream races a long time going a mile and an eighth. No matter how you slice it, you always give up a few lengths. However, Mr. Moss owns the horse and you can always pick up a couple lengths, maybe, with his good karma. That’s the way you have to look at it.”
Cup and Saucer Stakes winner Matador is 15-1 in the program for trainer Mark Casse, and will break from the No. 2 post under jockey Julien Leparoux. Matator was fourth, beaten a length, in the Sam F. Davis (G3) on Feb. 1 and fifth in his most recent start, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 8.
“With the mile and an eighth and the smaller field, the post position is not a big deal,” Casse said. “It’s a tough race. We’re just trying to give our horse another chance. We thought his last race wasn’t a true indication of his ability, but we’ll find out on Saturday.”
Also exiting the Tampa Bay Derby is eighth-place finisher East Hall, who ran fourth in the Fountain of Youth. Trained by Bill Kaplan for owners Jack Hendricks and Roger Justice, East Hall has two wins in five starts at Gulfstream, and is 20-1 on the morning line. The son of Graeme Hall drew post No. 5.
“Always in a two-turn race you want to be as close to the rail as possible because it’s a relatively short run in to the first turn, even at a mile and an eighth,” Kaplan said. “Post 5 is OK.”
Rounding out the Florida Derby field is 30-1 program choice Allstar, a Feb. 28 allowance winner at Calder for trainer Marcus Vitali and owner Crossed Sabres Farm. He will be ridden by Orlando Bocachica, who teamed with Vitali to upset the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) with 39-1 longshot Lochte on Feb. 8. Allstar drew the No. 7 post.