By Dick Downey
Kiaran McLaughlin can stop holding his breath now.
“I feel great about it. They let 20 run, and it doesn’t matter if you’re first or 20th,” he said. “I feel really good right now that we’re 20th.”
McLaughlin is clearly pleased that Cairo Prince has a berth in the Kentucky Derby starting gate now that he is probably assured of spot number 20 on the Derby leaderboard after Saturday’s prep races.
The only thing that could upset the plan is if there is change of heart or ownership by connections of a horse ahead of him in points, such as Toast of New York. Rumor has it that the British owner of the UAE Derby winner is shopping him to potential American buyers.
Sunday at Palm Meadows, Cairo Prince breezed a half-mile in company with stable mate Summer Cove in :48.60 (2/17) and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.80.
“He worked great,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll do the same thing next Sunday, but we’ll go five and gallop out three quarters. He’ll ship out on the 22nd and have one work at Churchill.”
After winning the Holy Bull Stakes, bypassing the Fountain of Youth and finishing fourth in the Florida Derby, Cairo Prince’s status for the first Saturday in May suddenly was put in jeopardy.
“Maybe it was the layoff. I’ll take the responsibility that maybe he needed to run,” McLaughlin said. “He got caught wide. Wicked Strong went to New York after the same thing and won the Wood. But it doesn’t really matter now.”
Now able to concentrate on the Triple Crown, McLaughlin is happy with his original plan for Cairo Prince.
“Now we have a chance to win the Kentucky Derby, not just (a chance to) run in it,” McLaughlin said.