By Dick Downey
Cairo Prince, Wildcat Red and General a Rod breezed Saturday for the Florida Derby. It's set to run in two weeks.
According to Gulfstream Park, Cairo Prince, the likely favorite, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Palm Meadows Training Center. He went in company with older horse Elnaawi and forged ahead toward the end of the move..
"He worked very well," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We didn't want another 59 and change from him. We put him in different company this time and he went a minute and four fifths. He kind of eased up the last part, the rider did, but we're very happy with him. That's what we wanted. We wanted 1:01, so that's perfect."
McLaughlin recognizes that the track has been playing very fast at Gulfstream Park. Wildcat Red and General a Rod, both of whom have early speed, were the only two horses that contended for the lead in the Fountain of Youth in February, and they finished one-two.
"It's a little bit of a concern, because in the Fountain of Youth the two horses went gate to wire together," McLaughlin added. "But it seems to be pretty fair lately, and we don't come from last, although with all that speed in there, we might be shuffled back. It's okay. He's doing great and we're happy. We'll work back next week and be ready for the Florida Derby."
Wildcat Red, General a Rod
Wildcat Red breezed four furlongs at Gulfstream Park, timed in :34.61 for three furlongs before completing the move in :47.98 under regular exercise rider Paco Mendoza. It was his first work since the Feb. 22 Fountain of Youth.
Trainer Jose Garoffalo had a different take on the surface at Gulfstream Park than did McLaughlin.
“The horse went very good. I think the track was a little bit fast, but he did it as easy as he usually does,” Garoffalo said. “I was expecting maybe 48 or so, but it was good. He is getting fitter, and now with every race is getting better. The plan is on. We’re going to breeze him one more time next week and then we’ll be ready, hopefully."
The Florida Derby will be the seventh career start, all at Gulfstream, for Wildcat Red. He was second by a head to General a Rod in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1 before turning the tables in the Fountain of Youth. He'll stretch out to 1 1/8 mile for the first time, as will General a Rod.
“He gallops one time around, and then he finishes. The second time around is the breeze,” Garoffalo said. “When I’m going to run long and run a distance, I always do that. My breezes are not for speed. He’s got natural speed, so what he needs is the stamina. That kind of horse, I don’t breeze from the pole because they get too anxious. I relax the horse during the gallop and then let him go the last three-eighths or quarter of a mile. He did everything as we expect. We’re still going step-by-step, day-by day, but everything is good so far.”
Regular exercise rider Joel Barrientos was up for General a Rod's work, a tightener which went in :59.50. Last Saturday, General a Rod went four furlongs in 51.26.
“He worked great,” trainer Mike Maker said. “He gave us exactly what we were looking for. He’s an easy horse. He can train himself. If you want to go fast, that’s fine; if you want to go slow, that’s fine, too. We picked it up a little today, and it was no problem at all.”
Maker plans to breeze General a Rod again next Saturday.
“He’s doing great,” Maker said. “We’re just hoping to keep him the same.”
Medal Count Also Goes
Medal Count, possible for the Florida Derby, went five-eighths in :59.11 for trainer Dale Romans. Corey Lanerie was aboard.
Medal Count was fifth in the Fountain of Youth at high odds.