Thoroughbred News Update - Kentucky Derby Hopefuls Making Noise

With the storied Kentucky Derby less than four months away, some horses are starting to make a case for themselves as possible Las Vegas odds on favorites for the Run for the Roses and this year's Triple Crown. Weekend stakes races held early in the year are often times strong indicators of future talent in bigger races, and that appeared to be the case this past weekend. The $400,000 Grade II Holy Bull Stakes run at Gulfstream Park saw the powerful Cairo Prince pull off an off-the-pace victory in dominant fashion to stake his claim as one of the premier Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown favorites this year.

After the commanding 5 3/4 length victory over 10 other competitive three-year-olds, next up for Cairo Prince could be a rematch against Honor Code in the February 22 Besilu Fountain of Youth. Honor Code outlasted Cairo Prince by a nose for a victory with a last-second push in last year's November 30 Remsen. In the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes, Prince carried the high weight of 122 pounds. As a 2 to 1 favorite, he has now added another graded stakes victory to last year's November 3 Nashua. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said that the logical choices up next for Cairo Prince would be either the Besilu Fountain of Youth or the March 29 Besilu Florida Derby.

McLaughlin stated that Prince will run "one or two more [races]" before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Riding was Jockey Luis Saez. The win saw Cairo Prince debut at #2 in the first installment of this year's Louisville Courier-Journal's national Kentucky Derby poll of thoroughbred favorites. At the #1 spot in the early rankings is Honor Code, and it looks like the top two horses in this influential ranking will almost certainly duel it out in the Kentucky Derby, even if they do not meet again before that race. Top Billing, a stablemate of Honor Code, enters the Kentucky Derby poll at #3 after a 1 1/16 mile win on the Holy Bull undercard.

Top Billing trainer Shug McGaughey said that he "was impressed with him" when referring to the recent win. Conquest Titan pushed Cairo Prince, and trainer Mark Casse said that going into the race he had expectations of a big day from the Churchill Downs allowance winner. Casse said that Titan will probably not run in the Fountain of Youth "unless Kiaran (Cairo Prince) would decide not to go there…" Intense Holiday and Almost Famous also ran well this past week, with both horses undecided as to where they will run over the next month or so.

Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia will run next against the fillies at the Fair Grounds on February 22, with trainer Jeremiah Englehart tweeting that "the Kentucky Derby remains the plan." Extrasexyhippzster now has 3 wins in 5 starts after Saturday's $100,000 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park, and at this early point in the season, the big Cairo Prince victory has forced a three-way tie for Kentucky Derby qualifying points with himself, Honor Code and Havana having earned 14 points each. Check back next week at this time for updated thoroughbred horse racing news regarding the important races leading up to the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown.

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