If figuring out who the best horse going into the Kentucky Derby is anything like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, then the result of yesterdays Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park was something like finding a key corner piece.
That’s because the victory by Cairo Prince may have answered a couple of key questions about the quality of the field that ran in the Remsen Stakes which was run on Thanksgiving weekend at Aqueduct Racetrack.
In the Remsen, 4-5 favorite, Honor Code out dueled 9-5 second choice, Cairo Prince in a prolonged stretch battle. With about a sixteenth of a mile to go Cairo Prince had passed Honor Code, but under a patient ride by Javier Castellano, the tenacious colt dug in gamely to win his first career stakes race.
However what was the story that came out of that race was not the result, but the way the race was run. As Grade 2 races go the pace was extremely slow, possibly due to a heavy wind down the back stretch. Yet in comparison, The Demoiselle, which is the two year old filly version of the Remsen, was run earlier that day and saw fractions that were roughly 2 seconds faster than their male counterparts.
Yesterday's Holy Bull featured 11 possible contenders for the Triple Crown, three of those entrants ran in the aforementioned Remsen. Those three are: Cairo Prince, Wicked Strong, and Intense Holiday. The end result was a good representation of the Remsen with two finishing in the money.
Those two were Cairo Prince, and Intense Holiday. Trained by Kiaran McLauglin, and out of the sire Pioneer of the Nile Backed Cairo Prince backed up his 2-1 favoritism with an emphatic 5 ¾ length victory. Intense Holiday also ran an exceptional race overcoming traffic trouble and getting up for third at odds of 16-1. The third horse, Wicked Strong; who ran third in the Remsen, trailed throughout and finished ninth.
What the Holy Bull also did was verify Honor Code as a legitimate favorite for the Derby. Too often in media coverage for the Derby, precocious two-year-olds are over-hyped, and more often than not are nowhere to be found on Derby Day. Honor Code has been under the microscope ever since his breathtaking maiden victory at Saratoga in late August in the mud. On that day he came from 22 lengths back to win going away. He followed that performance up with another impressive race in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. However in that race he could only muster second to Havana, but it was that fashion he did it which was so impressive. Coming from last place again, Honor Code was taken 8 wide on the turn for home. After straightening out, he mounted a very impressive attack, making up about 10 hard fought lengths losing by only a nose at the wire.