03/25/2014 1:09PM

Florida Derby: Clarke gets another shot at glory with Cairo Prince

Tom Keyser
Harvey Clarke retains a minority interest in Florida Derby favorite Cairo Prince.

Harvey Clarke said he never lamented the Kentucky Derby winner he virtually gave away. He is simply glad to have another chance to make it back to America’s most famous horse race.

In 2010, Clarke sold a yearling son of Flower Alley for $11,000 at the Keeneland September sale. That colt, out of the dam Arch’s Gal Edith, turned out to be I’ll Have Another, who in 2012 won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but was scratched from the Belmont Stakes due to an injury, thus ending his bid to become Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Clarke, 72, said he never looked back after selling I’ll Have Another and was rooting for him to succeed.

“It’s like seeing one of your kids do well,” Clarke said. “It was wonderful to see, a great thing.”

A year earlier, Clarke had experienced the Kentucky Derby as part of a group that owned Soldat, who finished 11th at odds of 11-1.

This year, Clarke could be headed back to the Kentucky Derby as part-owner of Cairo Prince, who is at or near the top of most handicappers’ Kentucky Derby contender lists. Cairo Prince, dominant winner of the Grade 2 Holy Bull on Jan. 25, will attempt to cement his status as a top-flight contender when he runs in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Clarke is only a minority owner of Cairo Prince after he and his original partners – Paul Braverman, Terrence Murray, and Craig Robertson III – sold a majority interest in the colt to Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing. Cairo Prince, trained all along by Kiaran McLaughlin, will race in Godolphin’s blue silks in the Florida Derby and subsequent races.

“It wasn’t easy,” Clarke said about selling. “They offered us an awful lot of money. That made it easier. There were four of us. The consensus was to take that offer. Even though it wasn’t easy we’re still in it for a fair percentage. If we win, it’ll be my horse that wins. That’s the way I’ll look at it.”

Clarke, the president of AJ Clarke, a real estate firm in Manhattan, said he has owned horses since 1979. He didn’t get his first stakes winner until 2009. In 2010, Soldat, Krypton, Eye of Taurus, and Yankee Fourtune all won graded events for Clarke. Soldat won the Fountain of Youth in 2011, a race that put him on the Derby trail even though he was probably a better turf horse.

“It takes a long time to become an overnight sensation,” Clarke said.

Clarke said he sells virtually everything he breeds. Among horses he bred that have gone on to do well are Havana, last year’s Grade 1 Champagne winner, and Stopchargingmaria, last year’s Grade 2 Demoiselle winner.

Speaking of his decision to put I’ll Have Another through the auction ring, Clarke said: “He was just a horse. Next time if I had to do it again I wouldn’t do anything much different. There was nothing not to like about him but there was nothing to particularly like about him, either.”

Clarke noted that he was not the only person to miss out on I’ll Have Another.

“Nobody raised their hand when they said $12,000,” Clarke said.

Clarke and his partners purchased Cairo Prince, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, for $250,000 out of the 2012 Keeneland yearling auction.

Last Oct. 6, the day after Havana and Honor Code ran one-two in the Grade 1 Champagne, Cairo Prince made his debut at Belmont Park. Before the race, in the Belmont paddock, Braverman asked McLaughlin if he felt like he had any horses that he thought were Derby prospects. McLaughlin mentioned Cairo Prince.

“I wear my feelings on my sleeve,” McLaughlin said Tuesday at Palm Meadows. “He just was that type of horse. He’s always been kind of a special horse to all of us.”

After winning that debut by 2 3/4 lengths, Cairo Prince won the Grade 2 Nashua at Aqueduct in his second start. He ended his 3-year-old season with a nose loss to Honor Code in the Grade 2 Remsen. Cairo Prince was visually impressive winning the Holy Bull by nearly six lengths.

Back in 2011, Soldat won an allowance race by more than 10 lengths and the Fountain of Youth by two lengths before finishing fifth in the Florida Derby and disappointing in the Kentucky Derby. His only win thereafter came in a turf allowance race.

“I think he’s a nicer horse than Soldat was,” Clarke says of Cairo Prince. “Maybe I’m jinxing him, but we think he’s really a special horse. I’ll guess we’ll find out Saturday.”

sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
I stand corrected. Cairo Prince is not the fastest horse. Ragozins sitting around 10. A couple of these boys are flirting with 5's! Cairo needs to take a step forward if he is going to run a number fast enough for Derby. I have averaged that Derby winners of the last 5 years are running 4's. Take this info for what you want or thumbs down it like an igonoramus.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
NO, I dont stand corrected. Missed his last race on the 2014 line. Cairo just fired a 4. He IS the fastest 3 year old in training. Bet against at your own peril.
ShyainC More than 1 year ago
i like allstar he has the pedigree to get the distance(flower alley out of a victory gallop mare) or matador has turf perigee but we all know how Churchill favors turf runners and he has pedigree to also get distance
Bob More than 1 year ago
Sorry boys, the buck stops here....General a Rod and Wildcat Red duke it out for the win in the Florida Derby on Saturday and one of them loses to an as yet unnamed horse on the first Saturday in May!
Matthew Ellis More than 1 year ago
A great owner and representative for Horse Racing. He is far to intelligent to feel bad about the sale of IHA he was bought for $11,000 no one could foresee the racehorse he became. NO ONE. This time Cairo Prince is the real deal ( top contender ) For Kentucky Derby if anyone knows its McLaughlin a brilliant horsemen. It was smart business to sell at the prices Godolphin can afford also he is still an owner. A big fan and all the best with this very talented 3 year old special horse.
RICKY More than 1 year ago
so WHO do you have Anonymous?(aka mental midget)..Flip Flop..I think Wildcat and General are a lot better than a lot of people think with the track in their favor but wait theres more..and if not all 3 wilt and Spot cleans it up .if if if..just say it with your chest... like you have a pair. pick a horse. thats the problem with you...you just tell us things we already know. dont need you to tell us what the racing form says already. your as chalky as BRAD FREE..
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RICKY More than 1 year ago
you and your brother are conjoint twins at the coochie...OUCH!!
RICKY More than 1 year ago
your funny redgirl..are you speaking ebonics? Now i see why you dont have a MOM. dont have a sister, but if you want me to put out the trash let me know where i can find you, and we can solve that problem you might have..now lets see if you have a pair
RICKY More than 1 year ago
u mad bro?
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RICKY More than 1 year ago
lol yeah start moonwalk, keep back tracking like i said "if you want me to put out the trash let me know where i can find you, and we can solve that problem you might have..now lets see if you have a pair." lets just get off moms cuzz i just got off yours.
Debbie West More than 1 year ago
SPOT will win - go SPOT and Nick Zito.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
It is amazing how folks stick to certain things about horse racing and just don't let it go. 1. "He's gonna bounce off that effort." 2. "They don't want to win this one, they want to win the next one." 3. "He isn't running fast in the mornings." 4. "He hasn't raced anyone." Best of ALL..... 5. "He doesn't want the distance." HOW THE HECK DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE HORSE WANTS? They are all going to get the distance. 19 will just do it slower than 1. Kentucky Derby is clean start and brilliant trip, not distance. Derby falls apart when 14 horses are fighting for position going into the final turn. Clean start, brilliant trip, not distance. Stop making excuses for something that you have no control or idea over. Trainers and owners aren't running these races for practice. One horse wins the Kentucky Derby every year. These folks want extensive resumes that separate their horse from their peers. They aren't running to ruin horses but all of these horses still have plenty more to show to give connections confidence that there is a chance for Derby and beyond.
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Cairo Prince has to be beaten for me to believe he is not the top contender and I strongly believe winning is what is in the cards for him Saturday.
Mark More than 1 year ago
Godolphin doesn't give a damn about Florida derby. These folks got plenty $ . These folks got no Kentucky Derby. That is their #1 priority with Cairo Prince . Period.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
I'm going back to General A Rod. I love his cruising speed. I think he fits in top 4 derby as long as he gets clean break he always fires. .
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
This is the one race where ill be more interested in HOW the horses run rather than where they finish. For CP to be a serious contender in the aderby he will have to rate off the speed. The Defby is usually won by a horse that rates and makes his move on the final turn entering the stretch. He may not yet be I front but he is in position to win. CP must rate off WR & GAR early and be in a position to move when called on. He can't hook the speed. There is way too much speed around the country that even if WR & GAR don't run in the Derby other speed horses will. So they must make sure that CP can rate. Where he finishes is of less concern. There are multiple horses that must come in 1-2 to be eligible. CP only needs to run well (3rd would be nice) and not empty the tank for him to be prepped for the Derby. I am not sold on any of the Derby horses yet. There are some exotic plays but the two horses who have ran the most impressive races have not even ran in a stake yet. That is why I will be watching every prep so intently. I am still waiting for my "Wow" moment. It better come soon/
Paul Aussenhofer More than 1 year ago
Pardon my typos. My iPhone was not fully cooperating. Sorry
edb More than 1 year ago
A scary possibility is Cairo Prince runs a bad race and misses the derby altogether. And another one bites the dust. I'm betting against it , but it has been that kind of a year.