Florida Derby Likely to Rematch Top FOY Foes
by Blood-Horse Staff
Date Posted: 2/23/2014 2:46:56 PM
Last Updated: 2/26/2014 9:02:18 PM
Wildcat Red and General a Rod, the one-two finishers in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, will likely take their nascent rivalry to the next level in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) March 29.
Awaiting them in that marquee event at a mile and an eighth will be Cairo Prince , who sat out the Fountain of Youth following his romp in the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Jan. 25.
General a Rod edged Wildcat Red by a head in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day, but the latter colt turned the tables in their virtual match race in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth Feb. 22.
"(Wildcat Red) doesn't have to go to the lead, and he's got a lot of gas if he needs to," Nick Galati, assistant to trainer Jose Garoffalo, said the morning after the important victory. "Yesterday he was pinned down on the inside and he did have a little disadvantage, but he fought every step of the way. It was a very exciting race. He never gave up. It was a test, and I think he passed with flying colors."
Owned by Honors Stable, Wildcat Red has made all six of his career starts at Gulfstream. He drew off stylishly in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) three weeks ago, and the Fountain of Youth marked his first attempt around two turns.
"He ate up and everything was fine," Galati said. "He came out perfect. He was full of himself and very, very happy. He'll be laying down today. He relaxes. There's just something about him, he does everything right. We're very happy with the way he came out of the race."
A son of top sprinter D'wildcat and the Miner's Mark mare Racene, Wildcat Red will attempt to stretch his speed in the Florida Derby in five weeks' time. He and General a Rod were separated by a head at the wire, with stretch-running favorite Top Billing winding up two lengths behind them in third.
General a Rod cooled out well after the race, according to trainer Mike Maker.
"He came out of the race just fine," Maker said. "Everything was great, he just came out of it on the losing end. He didn't show us anything that he didn't show us before; he just came out of it on the losing end. We're still undecided (about his next start). There's a lot of races out there, so we're just going to take our time and make a decision."
After collecting five points toward a possible Kentucky Derby start, fourth-place Fountain of Youth finisher East Hall could also get another crack in the Florida Derby, trainer Bill Kaplan said.
Previously third in the Gulfstream Park Derby, East Hall outran his 72-1 odds.
"I'm very proud of his performance, Kaplan said. "He gained a length on even Top Billing in the stretch, and he got the jump on us a little earlier. But he ran a superstar race, and he was still running at the end. He came back fresh, and he's doing fine. There was a discussion of maybe scratching from the 13 hole, but we decided to hang in there and it worked out good.
"The top two horses ran all the way up front, and Top Billing and (East Hall) came from last and next-to-last against a speed-favoring track," Kaplan continued. "I was very pleased with my horse's performance. Everything in our mind is looking toward the mile and a quarter in May. This sets up nice for it."
While bypassing the Fountain of Youth Cairo Prince breezed at Palm Meadows Saturday morning in preparation for the Florida Derby. The son of Pioneerof the Nile covered a half-mile in :49.90 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, his second drill since the Holy Bull triumph.
"It was very hot (Saturday), muggy, but he ate up and he's happy and bright, and all is well," McLaughlin reported Sunday. "That's all we want to do is maintain his happiness. He worked very well. It was a little bit slower than last week, but the track was pretty dry and it was very, very hot. He got a little warm, but it was just hot. The humidity has been terrible."
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