Odds-on favorite Cairo captured Friday’s Patton S. at Dundalk and jumped to the top of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. But the Aidan O’Brien trainee will look to earn his way to Churchill Downs another way, via the Mar. 25 UAE Derby (G2) on Dubai World Cup night.

Cairo was by far the class of the Patton field, as the winner of the Oct. 15 Killavullan (G3) when last seen at Leopardstown. The only potential concern was if ring-rustiness would come into play. Cairo was taking on a few race-fit rivals, while toting top weight of 134 pounds, in this one-mile affair on the Polytrack. 
Favorite backers might have wondered that especially given how the Patton unfolded. Striding forward eagerly in his comeback, Cairo matched strides with the longest shot on the board, the 150-1 maiden Ti Amo Sempre. Jockey Ryan Moore had to hold onto Cairo to prevent him from overdoing it early. There was no doubt he’d put away his pace companion, but could that soften him up when the closers pounced?
Cairo had the answer for that as well. Edging away down the stretch, the Irish-bred son of outstanding Kentucky sire Quality Road drove to a two-length victory. By clocking 1:40.48, he became O’Brien’s fifth Patton winner and banked 20 points on the European Road.
News at Ten stayed on well for second, good for eight points. Stormy Entry, the only other Triple Crown nominee in the field along with Cairo, picked up six points in third. Cash Out (four points) and Miss Caruso (two points) rounded out the top five, followed by All Things Nice, Tiverton, and the long-way last Ti Amo Sempre.
Campaigned by the Coolmore partners and Westerberg, Cairo advanced his scorecard to 5-3-2-0. The Coolmore homebred is out of the stakes-winning Galileo mare Cuff, who is a half-sister to Italian highweight Nayarra and a full sister to five other stakes performers. Cuff’s most notable full siblings are Group scorers Gustav Klimt and Wonderfully as well as Group 1-placed Mars.
Cairo just missed in his six-furlong debut at the Curragh last August, then broke his maiden next time out over a mile at the same venue. Cairo was favored when stepping up to stakes company in the Sept. 30 Star Appeal S. at Dundalk, but settled for second to the speedy Spirit Gal. He moved forward to win the Killavullan back on turf by a decisive 2 3/4 lengths, setting himself up for a projected tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Cairo ended up not coming to Keeneland, though, and instead went on his winter break.
“Aidan felt coming here that he was just ready to start,” Ballydoyle representative Chris Armstrong told irishracing.com. “He'll come on plenty for the run.
“Ryan was happy with him. He said he will come on plenty as well, experience and fitness-wise. Ryan couldn’t get cover (when racing on the outside), and he probably did a little much early against others that had a race. He gave Ryan a nice feel.
"The plan is, all being well and if he comes out of this well, he will go off to Dubai for the UAE Derby and we will see how we go.”
Cairo is therefore following the same itinerary as O’Brien’s most recent Patton winner, Mendelssohn (2018), who took a leap forward between Dundalk and Dubai. Workmanlike in the Patton, Mendelssohn was spectacular in the UAE Derby at Meydan, where he drew off by 18 1/2 lengths in track-record time.

The final two European scoring races are the Mar. 15 Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions S. at Kempton and the Apr. 1 Cardinal Conditions S. at Chelmsford.