Gulfstream Park News & Notes
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL- Cairo Prince, likely favorite for the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on March 29, took another step toward the race with a half-mile work on Saturday. Dominant winner of the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) on Jan. 25, Cairo Prince was clocked in 49.60 seconds for four furlongs, galloping out five-eighths in 1:03.80 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County.
It was the fourth work for the Pioneerof the Nile colt since the Holy Bull, having gone five furlongs in 59.95 seconds in company on March 1. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had originally planned another five-eighths for Saturday.
“It was just what we ordered and wanted to see,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He looked great doing it, and we’re on course for the race. The reason we backed up and went slower is because we can’t go 59 and four every week or there will be not much left of him. We were real happy with the work. He’s doing great.”
Darley Stable purchased a majority interest in Cairo Prince from owners Terry Murray, Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson following the Holy Bull. The horse has won three of his four lifetime starts, including the Nashua (G2) last fall. His lone loss came by a nose to Honor Code in the Remsen (G2).
“We’re excited, and he’s doing great,” McLaughlin said. “We’re happy we passed on the Fountain of Youth and hope all goes well the next couple of weeks and we draw a good post in the Florida Derby.” General Rod Returns To Work Tab
Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile breeze on Saturday for trainer Mike Maker.
Runner-up by a head to Wildcat Red in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 22 in his most recent start, General a Rod went in 51.26 seconds over Gulfstream’s main track. He will make his next start in the Florida Derby.
“We just worked him easy and he was push-button, as always,” Maker said. “It was nothing for him, just a stroll in the park. We didn’t ask him for anything. He came back like a routine gallop.”
Owned by J. Armando Rodriguez, General a Rod has two wins and two seconds in four lifetime starts. The Roman Ruler colt broke his maiden first time out at Keeneland last fall, and returned to finish 1 ¾ lengths behind Conquest Titan in a Churchill Downs allowance in November.
This year, General a Rod dueled with Wildcat Red down the stretch before prevailing by a head in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, then had the finish reversed in the Fountain of Youth following a similar battle.
“He’s doing good, his weight’s good, his attitude’s good, and everything’s in place,” Maker said. “He was more aggressive after the race and full of himself, so he probably wanted to work sooner than I decided. Everything’s positive.”
General a Rod had 6 ½ weeks from the Gulfstream Park Derby to the Fountain of Youth and will have had four weeks to the Florida Derby, but Maker is not concerned with the turnaround.
‘It was just the timing of the race that we had to deal with,” Maker said. “We felt we’d give him more time earlier than later for his benefit.”
Maker said that Louisiana-bred LeComte (G3) winner Vicar’s in Trouble would likely have his first work since joining the trainer’s Gulfstream string last week on March 15. In his last start, Vicar’s in Trouble was third from post 14 in the Risen Star (G2) on Feb. 22.
Whomping Willow Set for Sunday's Any Limit Stakes
Whomping Willow might be ready to build on her early promise tomorrow in Gulfstream's featured $75,000 Any Limit Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Runner-up to a pair of future stakes winners in her first two starts last summer, the daughter of Mineshaft returned from a three-month break to finish second behind In Tune--another next-out winner--in a maiden at Gulfstream on January 12. She put it all together with an authoritative success going seven furlongs on February 16, and trainer Dale Romans is confident about her chances.
"That race looked like it was a breakthrough race for her," Romans said. "She finished up well and ran like we'd been waiting for her to do. She'll be tough."
Whomping Willow is owned by Mark and John Bacon and Dana Wells. They also campaign Silver Max, who famously handed Horse of the Year Wise Dan his sole defeat in 2013. Whomping Willow hasn't quite scaled those heights yet, but her connections hold her in high regard.
"We had thought about stretching her out, but (the Any Limit) came up looking like a pretty good spot," Romans said. "We might stretch her out next or go right to the (G3 Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs) on Derby Day."
Romans is still debating the next target for Medal Count, who scored over the Gulfstream turf course in January before running an even fifth in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on the dirt on February 22. The 3-year-old son of Dynaformer is owned by B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm.
"It wasn't terrible, but I still haven't decided what to do with him," Romans offered. "I'd like to give him one more shot (on the dirt). Mr. Hughes is kinda hedging a little bit, but we'll see how that unfolds. Maybe he'll go in one of the last major preps (for the Kentucky Derby)."
Romans also trains a pair of colts for Donegal Racing, Cleburne and Smart Cover, that were benched after filling the exacta in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on September 7. Smart Cover recently returned to action in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) on the turf last Saturday at Gulfstream, but showed rustiness and finished 11th. The son of Any Given Saturday will likely head out of town for his next appearance.
"He came out of (the Palm Beach) good--it was really more of a training race than anything," Romans added. "We're thinking of taking him to Turfway next weekend."
Iroquois hero Cleburne was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita with a sore shin. The son of Dixie Union is making quick progress since getting back on the Gulfstream worktab in February. "Cleburne is coming back quicker than expected," Romans confirmed.