The Kentucky Derby won’t take place until the first Sunday in May but an important prep race in Florida could determine the post time favorite. That race is the Florida Derby, to be held at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. It is the main event on a big day of racing that will also determine the top contenders for the Kentucky Oaks on the undercard as well as three year olds to watch in the other Triple Crown races.
The horse that will capture the bulk of the attention–and betting dollars–is the enigmatic Cairo Prince. Cairo Prince was considered the Kentucky Derby favorite earlier in the year and that case was solidified after winning the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He’s not raced since then, however, after suffering several setbacks in training that have kept him sidelined. He’ll face plenty of competition in the race including Arkansas Derby veteran Conquest Titan and Louisiana Derby post time favorite. In addition he’ll face Wildcat Red (won the Fountain of Youth Stakes, General a Rod and Constitution.
Cairo Prince’s trainer Kiaran McLaughlin knows that a big race could put his horse in the Churchill Downs’ gates as the post time favorite and he’s excited about that prospect:
“I grew up 73 miles from Churchill Downs … and to end up back 73 miles again from home with a possible chance to win, it would be priceless.”
Most horse racing experts suggest that Cairo Prince is simply of a higher class than his competition in this race but others look to a relative wild card–the Todd Pletcher trained Constitution. The rap on Constitution is that he’s been lightly raced up to this point. He’s raced only twice against forgettable levels of competition and won both. Constitution’s jockey, Javier Castellano, is optimistic about his chances:
“He’s a young, developing horse and I really liked the way he did it last time. I think he’s got a lot of potential.”
The next two weekends should go a long way in determining not only the field of contenders for the Kentucky Derby but the favorites. In addition to the Florida Derby the Louisiana Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial and Arkansas Derby are all on tap.