As good as he felt after watching Cairo Prince romp to a 5 3/4-length win in Saturday's Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was just as excited after checking on his stable star Sunday morning.
Stabled at Palm Meadows, Cairo Prince gave McLaughlin every indication that the Pioneerof the Nile colt took the most lopsided Holy Bull victory in 19 years in stride.
"Cairo came out of the race great. He ate up well and is happy, sound and healthy this morning, so we're very pleased with that," he said. "It's exactly what I wanted to see. That's the key, because if they back out of the tub it's the first indication it was a tough race on him, but he ate up everything and he's bright and happy. He couldn't have come out of the race better. He is perfect this morning, so that's all we can ask for."
In the Holy Bull, his first race since finishing a nose behind Honor Code in the Remsen at Aqueduct on November 30, Cairo Prince raced three wide from post 7 and rolled up on the early leaders at the three-eighths pole before taking command nearing the stretch and drawing away for the biggest margin of victory since Suave Prospect won by eight lengths in 1995.
It was the second graded stakes win for Cairo Prince following the Nashua on November 3, and stamped him as a leading contender on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
McLaughlin has been there four times before, finishing second with Holy Bull winner Closing Argument in 2005 and fourth in 2006 with Jazil, who would go on to win the Belmont Stakes. A native of Lexington, Kentucky, McLaughlin was also 14th in the 2006 Derby with Flashy Bull, and 11th with Soldat in 2011.
"There's no question he's the best one," McLaughlin said of Cairo Prince, who is owned by Harvey Clarke, Craig Robertson, Paul Braverman and Namcook Stable.
"We haven't been in this position before, ever. The most important thing is he doesn't have to improve. He doesn't have to do anything but stay the way he is, and that's all we hope for is for him to stay healthy and happy."
McLaughlin said the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth on February 22 is the next logical spot to consider for Cairo Prince, followed by the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 29.
"The next question is where do we go from here, and I don't have an answer today," McLaughlin said. "I don't have to have an answer today. We'll see how he starts training. Obviously, the Fountain of Youth is next here in the series so that's what we're going to look at.
"This horse, he even makes me say things that I don't normally say because I like to let the horse do the talking on the track. He's a really, really nice horse, the kind everybody gets up early every day to come out and train. He makes our job easy."