Off his hard-fought runner-up finish in the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day, Florida-bred Wildcat Red earned his way into the mix for the track's key races for three-year-olds.
Trainer Jose Garaffalo is pointing the D'wildcat colt to the Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull on January 25, with an eye on the Grade 2, $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) on February 22. Both races are run at 1 1/16 miles.
"We have plans to run in the Holy Bull; that will be the next step," Garaffalo said. "Depending on the Holy Bull, we will go in the Fountain of Youth. Who knows if we will go in the Florida Derby. It's still too early to tell, but right now we have expectations. We'll see what happens. I think he'll be ready for the next one."
The 63rd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby, at 1 1/8 miles, will be run on March 29.
In Wednesday's Gulfstream Park Derby, Wildcat Red broke from post one under jockey Paco Lopez and battled for the lead with Aarons Orient for a quarter-mile before taking over the top spot. He was passed by eventual winner General a Rod after six furlongs, came back to take a short lead turning for home, and fought all the way to the wire before losing a head bob following a mile in 1:35 4/5.
"He came back in very good shape, thank God," Garaffalo stated. "He ran a hell of a race. The best case scenario would be to win, but I'm OK. We're happy with the race. He did his job. Considering he was off for two months, the post position and all the speed of the race, he did a great job.
"Surprisingly, he came back full of himself, very happy. He deserved to win because he did all the work, but he proved that he has the class and that he can go longer, which is what I want to do with him. I want to run him longer and see if he can go two turns."
Garaffalo believes Wildcat Red will stretch out despite being by D'wildcat, a Grade 1-winning sprinter who never competed beyond a mile in his time on track.
"Now he proved that he can do better than he did before, especially the distance. In a good pace, in a slower pace, he can go longer. He fought the whole time, he never quit," Garaffalo declared about Wildcat Red.
"The most important thing is that the horse came back in good shape. There are plenty of races ahead of him and if he's sound, he will go far. You have to have the horse."