When even-money favorite Tight Ten set a slow pace in Saturday’s $150,000 Iroquois (G3), and kicked away at the top of the Churchill Downs stretch, he looked on his way to victory in the first points race toward the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1). But Cairo Cat, a 17-1 outsider, pounced late to snatch 10 Derby points – along with a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) here over the same track.
Trained by Ken McPeek for Walking L Thoroughbreds, Cairo Cat was last seen breaking his maiden at Saratoga. The third-placer in that race, Opry, came back to score in the With Anticipation (G3). Bettors weren’t impressed going into the Iroquois, possibly because Cairo Cat’s winning time was relatively slow. Yet two-year-olds can move forward in leaps and bounds, and that’s just what happened here.
Tight Ten, who brought a more compelling profile as the runner-up in the Saratoga Special (G2), secured the early lead through fractions of :24.03, :48.74, and 1:14.06, conserving plenty of energy for the homestretch. The favorite spurted clear from nearly all his pursuers, except Cairo Cat.
Under a masterful ride by Brian Hernandez Jr., Cairo Cat maneuvered into a ground-saving spot, improved his position on the backstretch, and traveled particularly well behind Tight Ten turning for home. As Tight Ten drifted in, Cairo Cat angled out in deep stretch, and finished with a flourish to run him down by a half-length. He rewarded his backers with a win payout of $36.20.
By finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.35, Cairo Cat became the first stakes winner sired by Cairo Prince, once an early favorite for the 2014 Kentucky Derby before his career was cut short by injury. This is the same sire line responsible for American Pharoah, both the 2015 Triple Crown champion and Cairo Prince being sons of Pioneerof the Nile.
Cairo Cat, a $130,000 yearling purchase at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July, has bankrolled $133,750 from his two-for-three record.