01/25/2014 6:31PM

Gulfstream Park: Cairo Prince reigns in Holy Bull Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Cairo Prince and jockey Luis Saez score by 5 3/4 lengths in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Cairo Prince passed the first major test for 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail and did so with flying colors, drawing away to an impressive 5 3/4-length victory over Conquest Titan in Saturday’s Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Cairo Prince completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.16, missing the track standard set by the older River Seven five weeks earlier by just 0.43 seconds. His time also was 0.50 seconds faster than another leading Derby prospect, Top Billing, covered the same distance in winning an allowance race earlier on the card.

Cairo Prince rated comfortably under jockey Luis Saez while kept within easy striking distance of an honest pace set by Coup de Grace and prompted by Almost Famous. Cairo Prince moved methodically under confident handling while racing three wide around the second turn to readily overtake Almost Famous entering the stretch, then drew away with complete authority down the lane.

Conquest Titan, last after a half-mile, circled horses while rallying into the stretch before outfinishing Intense Holiday by a half-length to finish second. It was another three-quarters of a length back to the tiring Almost Famous in fourth.

Best Plan Yet, Financial Mogul, Mr Speaker, Our Caravan, Wicked Strong, Coup de Grace, and Big Bazinga rounded out the order of finish.

Cairo Prince is a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of the Holy Bull mare Holy Bubbette trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. He paid $6.20 as the favorite in a full and talented field of 3-year-olds.

“He had a great trip, just what we were hoping for – in the clear, no troubles,” McLaughlin said on his way to the winner’s circle. “Luis did a great job. He’s a nice horse.”

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

McLaughlin had been quietly confident that he had the horse to beat in the weeks leading up to the $400,000 Holy Bull, which is the first of three major Kentucky Derby preps at Gulfstream Park this winter, along with the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 22 and the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29.

“We felt we had the best horse, and we’re marching on,” McLaughlin said. “He trains exceptionally well, and he’s got a great mind. A lot of times, you don’t get those two things in the same package.”

McLaughlin said it was too early to make a decision on when and where Cairo Prince might run next, but he mentioned the Fountain of Youth as a strong possibility.

“Since we’re standing here at Gulfstream Park, yeah, we’re looking at the Fountain of Youth,” McLaughlin said. “But we could also wait until the Florida Derby. He’ll have one or two more races. We’ll just see how it goes.”

[Clocker Reports: Get Mike Welsch’s clocker reports from Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows]