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Mar 28, 2014

Up the Backstretch: Speed aplenty in Florida Derby

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - If Wildcat Red knew that he was placed as the 3-1 second pick behind 9-5 morning line favorite Cairo Prince for Saturday's Florida Derby, he probably would spit nails and then try to go out and beat the favorite into submission.

The difference between the top two 3-year-olds' early lines is as big a gap as a top seed from an eight seed in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Clearly, Cairo Price deserves to be the morning line favorite in the $1 million, 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep. And his 9-5 odds also are warranted, although there are two steps between 9-5 and 3-1, not one.

Meanwhile, the speed-loving Wildcat Red has drawn the inside post in the eight- horse field. Gaining the rail post should have put the colt at 5-2 in the program.

"He's the speed of the race. He can go on the lead and the post position will be in favor of him," trainer Jose Garoffalo said about Wildcat Red's post position. "He likes the inside. He likes to go inside horses. His previous two races, he was on the inside and got beat (a head) and the other one he won. It's going to be OK. He's got the ability and the versatility to rate. I'm not worried about the post position. This track, the No. 1 is favorable for a mile and an eighth."

Wildcat Red is coming off a head victory in Gulfstream Park's Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 22. The colt set most of the pace in the 1 1/16-mile stakes and held off General a Rod, who pressed the pacesetter throughout. General a Rod, who beat Wildcat Red on New Year's Day, drew post 6 and is 7-2.

"We've got to press him (Wildcat Red)," General a Rod's trainer Mike Maker indicated. "The speed's to our inside, so it kind of gives us options, whereas everybody else might be forced to force their hand a little."

Cairo Prince is a horse who is always on or near the lead. The colt will break from post 3, which should put him just to the outside of Wildcat Red as the field goes around the first turn and into the backstretch.

"There's a lot of speed in there, so I think we'll be coming from behind. He's doing great," said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains the favorite.

Experience also may be a determining factor on Saturday.

Wildcat Red will be making his fourth start of the year while Cairo Prince has just the Holy Bull Stakes under his saddle coming into the Florida Derby. Of course, Cairo Prince won the Holy Bull at Gulfstream by 5 3/4 lengths, but that was two months ago.

"We haven't been in this position before, ever. The most important thing is he doesn't have to improve. He doesn't have to do anything but stay the way he is, and that's all we hope for is for him to stay healthy and happy," McLaughlin noted shortly after winning the Holy Bull.

With five weeks until the Kentucky Derby, the winner of the Florida Derby not only will acquire 100 points in the points system that sets the field for the Triple Crown's opening event, he will become the early favorite for the Run for the Roses.

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