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Cairo Prince tops Florida Derby worktab

  • Cairo Prince turned in a satisfactory maintenance move in advance of the Florida Derby (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Cairo Prince, the probable favorite in next Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, breezed an easy half-mile in :50 4/5 Saturday morning at Palm Meadows.

"He went great. We were looking for a 49ish, but it doesn't matter. It was just a maintenance work, his last work. He did it great," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We're all set for next weekend."

Exercise Rider Rob Massey was aboard for the colt's sixth workout since capturing the $400,000 Holy Bull Gulfstream on January 25.

"He went by himself. We didn't want a 47," McLaughlin said. "He was perfect. It could have been a tiny bit faster, but we know he can go faster. We were just looking for a maintenance work."

Cairo Prince has proven he can run fast during the afternoon. The son of Pioneerof the Nile has won three of four starts, including a 5 3/4-length triumph in the Holy Bull. He made a wide sweeping move under regular jockey Luis Saez around the final turn before drawing off with speed to spare.

Sheikh Mohammed's Darley purchased a majority interest in Cairo Prince since his last start, while Harvey Clarke, W. Craig Robertson III, Paul Braverman and J. Terrence Murray retained an interest in the Kentucky-bred colt.

Matador breezed five furlongs in 1:01 Saturday morning at Palm Meadows in preparation for a scheduled start in the Florida Derby.

"He worked well. We put a little sharper breeze into him leading up to the race. We're hoping to keep him a little closer to the pace," said trainer Mark Casse, whose son and assistant Norman supervised the breeze.

The son of Malibu Moon worked in blinkers for the workout, the third fastest of 19 recorded at the distance, and will race in blinkers for the first time in the Florida Derby.

Matador broke his maiden on turf last season before finishing a close fourth in the Sam F. Davis over Tampa Bay Downs' main track. In the Tampa Bay Derby, he lagged far behind the field before closing to fifth.

"He loves the dirt. He's really trained well at Palm Meadows," Casse said. "Julien (Leparoux) said he couldn't get him motivated last time, so we're going to give blinkers a try."

Florida Derby prospect Constitution had a half-mile tune-up in :49 1/5 at Palm Meadows Saturday morning. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is undefeated in two starts, both during Gulfstream's Champions Meet. The son of Tapit broke his maiden on January 11 before turning in a dazzling 3 1/2-length victory in an allowance race on February 22.

Spot, who captured the Swale by 2 1/2 lengths at Gulfstream on March 1, turned in the fastest of 74 half-mile breezes at Palm Meadows with a :47 3/5 clocking.

Purchased privately and turned over to trainer Nick Zito before the Swale, the three-year-old son of Pulpit is now listed as likely for the Florida Derby.

"It was huge, very huge," Zito said. "I'm very, very happy with it. He's a horse that keeps improving, knock on wood."

Zito conferred with owner Joseph Moss following the workout, in which regular exercise rider Maxine Correa was aboard.

"I just got off the phone with Mr. Moss. He said to me, 'Nick, I obviously want to run in the big race with him. I want to try. It may be too early, but it also might be too late, but there isn't anything against trying,'" Zito said. "So he's leaving it up to me. I told him, 'I'm leaning towards the Florida Derby.' He just said, 'Just use good judgment.'"

Jose Lezcano, who rode Spot to victory in the Swale, is scheduled to ride Twilight Eclipse in the $5 million Sheema Classic in Dubai next Saturday.

"I don't have Lezcano, but I've never seen a horse go out for a big race without a jockey on it," Zito said. "Right now I'm leaning toward Corey Lanerie. He rides there all the time. He's a good rider, a good guy."

Spot won once in four starts as a two-year-old and finished fifth in the Hutcheson in his 2014 debut at Gulfstream before joining Zito, for whom he continues to blossom.

"That's a good thing. That's the whole key. I've been in enough of these things to know that you need to get good at the right time," said Zito, who has saddled three Florida Derby winners: High Fly (2005), Ice Box (2010) and Dialed In (2011). "Let's just hope he's getting good at the right time."

At Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Wildcat Red put in a timed work through a light rain shortly after 7:30 a.m. (EDT), while Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod was also out for a routine gallop, and will breeze for trainer Mike Maker on Sunday.           

After galloping once around the track, Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth winner Wildcat Red went three furlongs in :35 2/5 and galloped out through the wire in :48 4/5 for a half-mile. Wildcat Red will make his next start in the Florida Derby.

"He did his job. He did what he usually does," trainer Jose Garoffalo said. “We were happy with the workout and he came back full of himself. It's one more step. Everything seems good, so the plan is still on. We hope to enter the horse on Wednesday and run next Saturday.”

The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby will be the seventh lifetime start for Wildcat Red, all at Gulfstream Park. He has four wins from six races and was second by a head to General a Rod in the Gulfstream Park Derby.

"The closer we get to the race, the more excited you are, but we're ok, we're handling it with no rush," Garoffalo said. "We're just waiting for the race, and that's it. We're still on the way."

General a Rod will work at 7:30 on Sunday morning at Gulfstream and make his next start in the Florida Derby. 

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