Kiaran McLaughlin was able to breathe a sigh of relief the morning of April 13 with Cairo Prince ranked 20th on the qualifying list for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands after the final two major preps were run a day earlier.
"I feel great about it. They let 20 run, and it doesn't matter if you're first or 20th," he said while looking forward to the May 3 Derby. "I feel really good right now that we're 20th."
Sunday morning at Palm Meadows, Cairo Prince breezed a half-mile in company with stablemate Summer Cove in :48.60, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.80. The breeze was the second fastest of 17 recorded at the distance.
"He worked great," McLaughlin said. "We'll do the same thing next Sunday, but we'll go five (furlongs) and gallop out three quarters. He'll ship out on the 22nd and have one work at Churchill."
The trainer had some uneasy moments since Cairo Prince turned in a disappointing fourth-place finish at 6-5 in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) March 29, not knowing if the son of Pioneerof the Nile would have enough qualifying points to compete at Churchill Downs on May 3.
McLaughlin trains Cairo Prince for Godolphin, Terry Murray, Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke, and Craig Robertson.
Cairo Prince captured the Holy Bull (gr. II) Jan. 25 by 5 1/2 lengths, establishing himself as the top-rated 3-year-old on the East Coast. After McLaughlin decided to bypass the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (gr. II), Cairo Prince's status for the first Saturday in May was put in jeopardy by his dull showing in the Florida Derby.
"Maybe it was the layoff. I'll take the responsibility that maybe he needed to run," McLaughlin said. "He got caught wide. Wicked Strong went to New York after the same thing and won the Wood (gr. I). But it doesn't really matter now."
Now able to concentrate on the Triple Crown, McLaughlin is happy with his original plan for Cairo Prince.
"Now we have a chance to win the Kentucky Derby, not just run in it," McLaughlin said.
Cairo Prince, bred in Kentucky by Richard and Katherine Elam from the Holy Bull mare Holy Bubbette, has won three of five starts and banked $562,000.