Wildcat Red, Luis Saez Reunite for Sunday Workout at Gulfstream Park
Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Winner Breezed four furlongs in :48.69
Intense Holiday, We Miss Artie Breeze at Palm Meadows
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Wildcat Red was reunited with jockey Luis Saez Sunday morning for the first time since they teamed for a front-running victory in the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22.
Under a motionless Saez, Wildcat Red breezed four furlongs in 48.69 seconds over the fast Gulfstream surface before galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.30 in preparation for a scheduled start in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3.
“He was flying. The good thing was: he got his last eighth in 11-flat,” said trainer Jose Garoffalo following the Florida-bred colt’s first workout since finishing a close second behind Constitution in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream on March 29. “That’s all we needed. We don’t need anything more than that.”
Saez became available to ride Wildcat Red in the first leg of the Triple Crown Saturday, when Cairo Prince was withdrawn with an ankle injury. The 21-year-old rising riding star, who expressed his sadness for Cairo Prince’s owners and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, was pleased with Wildcat Red’s workout Sunday.
“He’s a nice horse. He worked really good,” said Saez, who had already been scheduled to ride on Sunday’s Easter Day card when Garoffalo gave him a call Saturday. “He seems better now than when I rode him.”
Saez, who had ridden Cairo Prince to a dominating triumph in the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream on Jan. 18 before his disappointing fifth in the Florida Derby, was always Garoffalo’s first choice to ride Wildcat Red. When Cairo Prince qualified on points for the Derby field last week, Garoffalo and the Honors Stable Corp. had turned to Rafael Bejarano earlier in the week, only to make a switch and give the mount to Saez Saturday.
“He’s a great rider. He’s a smart guy. Remember, he’s still such a young guy. He’s so mature for his age. All the time, he was my first choice since the Fountain of Youth. But we couldn’t get together because he had a commitment to the other horse, Cairo Prince, in the Florida Derby,” Garoffalo said. “Now, he’s open, so why not put him on the horse?”
Wildcat Red, who has been no worse than second in seven starts since breaking his maiden at Gulfstream on Sept. 14, has been ridden by five different riders in his last five races.
“This is what I’ve been trying to do all along – get a steady rider,” Garoffalo said. “I’ve been trying to get a rider who’d stay on the horse, but we never did…until now. Now, we have Luis and hopefully everything will work out all right.”
Garoffalo said Wildcat Red will walk Monday and ship to Kentucky after walking Tuesday morning. Saez is scheduled to be aboard Wildcat Red for his final workout before the Derby next Saturday or Sunday at Churchill.
“It’s very exciting, but at the same time it’s a lot of work. You have to take care of every detail,” he said. “At this level of competition, you have to be very focused and concentrate on everything, all the small details.”
Garoffalo, who is preparing to saddle his first horse for the Derby, will make his second trip to Churchill Downs, where he saddled Davona Dale (G2) winner Yara for a troubled off-the-board finish in the 2012 Kentucky Oaks.
“That experience is helping me a lot. I think it was a gift of God to give me that experience,” he said. “Even though it may not be the same situation, it gave me the experience to handle the situation the next time, which is now, because you know where you’re going, you know the track, and you know the environment.”
Sunday morning at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, trainer Todd Pletcher sent two Kentucky Derby hopefuls to the track. Intense Holiday, third in the Holy Bull before winning the Risen Star (G2) and finishing second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, breezed four furlongs in 48.75 seconds. John Velazquez has the Derby mount.
We Miss Artie, a runner-up in the Kitten’s Joy on turf at Gulfstream before capturing the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.19. Javier Castellano, who rode Constitution to victory in the Florida Derby, picked up the Derby mount on We Miss Artie.