Cairo Prince, likely favorite for the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29, took another step toward the race with a half-mile work on Saturday.
Dominant winner of the $400,000 Holy Bull on January 25, Cairo Prince was clocked in :49 3/5 for four furlongs, galloping out five-eighths in 1:03 4/5 at Palm Meadows.
It was the fourth work for the Pioneerof the Nile colt since the Holy Bull, having gone five furlongs in :59 4/5 in company on March 1. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had originally planned another five-eighths for Saturday.
"It was just what we ordered and wanted to see," McLaughlin said. "He looked great doing it, and we're on course for the race. The reason we backed up and went slower is because we can't go 59 and four every week or there will be not much left of him. We were real happy with the work. He's doing great."
Darley Stable purchased a majority interest in Cairo Prince from owners Terry Murray, Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson following the Holy Bull. The horse has won three of his four lifetime starts, including the Nashua at Aqueduct last fall. His lone loss came by a nose to Honor Code in the Remsen.
"We're excited, and he's doing great," McLaughlin said. "We're happy we passed on the Fountain of Youth and hope all goes well the next couple of weeks and we draw a good post in the Florida Derby."
Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile breeze on Saturday for trainer Mike Maker.
Runner-up by a head to Wildcat Red in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on February 22 in his most recent start, General a Rod went in :51 1/5 over Gulfstream's main track. He will make his next start in the Florida Derby.
"We just worked him easy and he was push-button, as always," Maker said. "It was nothing for him, just a stroll in the park. We didn't ask him for anything. He came back like a routine gallop."
Owned by J. Armando Rodriguez, General a Rod has two wins and two seconds in four lifetime starts. The Roman Ruler colt broke his maiden first time out at Keeneland last fall, and returned to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind Conquest Titan in a Churchill Downs allowance in November.
This year, General a Rod dueled with Wildcat Red down the stretch before prevailing by a head in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1, then had the finish reversed in the Fountain of Youth following a similar battle.
"He's doing good, his weight's good, his attitude's good, and everything's in place," Maker said. "He was more aggressive after the race and full of himself, so he probably wanted to work sooner than I decided. Everything's positive."
General a Rod had 6 1/2 weeks from the Gulfstream Park Derby to the Fountain of Youth and will have had four weeks to the Florida Derby, but Maker is not concerned with the turnaround.
"It was just the timing of the race that we had to deal with," Maker said. "We felt we'd give him more time earlier than later for his benefit."
Maker said that Louisiana-bred LeComte winner Vicar's in Trouble would likely have his first work since joining the trainer's Gulfstream string last week on March 15. In his last start, Vicar's in Trouble was third from post 14 in the Risen Star on February 22.