Making the Grade: Cairo Prince


Cairo Prince romped in the Holy Bull Stakes to tie for the lead on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

Making the Grade, which will run through the 2014 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.

This week we take a closer look at Cairo Prince, winner of the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park.

Cairo Prince had his doubters entering the Holy Bull Stakes but after a powerhouse, runaway win in the $400,000 race the Pioneerof the Nile colt proved that he belongs in the conversation with the best of his generation early on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Most considered the Holy Bull field of 11 a deep, talented cast and Cairo Prince overwhelmed the opposition in a 5 ¾-length romp.

Cairo Prince

Gray or Roan Colt

Sire (Father): Pioneerof the Nile

Dam (Mother): Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull

Owners: Namcook Stables, Paul Braverman,
Harvey A. Clarke and Craig Robertson

Breeder: Richard L. Elam & Katherine H. Elam (Ky.)

Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin

Ability: Cairo Prince’s 108 Equibase Speed Figure for winning the Holy Bull is the highest of the year for a 3-year-old male and right there with the best speed figures recorded by 2-year-old males in 2013. The only members of his generation to better that mark were Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity and Outstrip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, both of whom earned a 109.

Cairo Prince is just a nose away from being unbeaten. After winning his debut by 2 ¾ lengths, he was much the best in winning the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes by 2 ½ lengths. In a strangely run edition of the Remsen Stakes, Cairo Prince rallied from third to take the lead after a leisurely early pace and then was nipped at the finish line by Honor Code. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin thought Cairo Prince ran a winning race and said after the Remsen that he thought he had the better horse.

Cairo Prince confirmed his quality in the Holy Bull with arguably the best performance by a 3-year-old this season. It’s fair to expect a bright future from both Cairo Prince and Honor Code.

Running style: Cairo Prince has shown plenty of speed early in his races. He was fifth after the opening quarter-mile in the Nashua but only two lengths back, and in the Holy Bull he was fifth – three lengths back – after the first quarter. He seems to thrive when racing just behind the pacesetters and then making his move approaching the stretch.

In his maiden victory at six furlongs, Cairo Prince led after a half-mile in a swift :45.76 and he was just a length back of a very fast six furlongs in 1:10.30 before winning the Holy Bull. When jockey Luis Saez, who has been aboard for all four of his starts, says it’s time to shift gears, Cairo Prince has shown the response of a finely tuned sports car. That speed and responsiveness will allow Cairo Prince to adjust in key spots in big races when faced with adversity.


Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglinese Photos

Connections: Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin knows how to prepare a top 3-year-old. He won the Belmont Stakes in 2006 with Jazil. McLaughlin also has trained three champions – 2007 champion turf female Lahudood, 2012 champion 3-year-old filly Questing and 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor. Invasor won the Breeders’ Cup Classic en route to being honored as both champion older male and Horse of the Year in 2006. McLaughlin finished second with Closing Argument in the 2005 Kentucky Derby and fourth the following year with Jazil.

Previous Making the Grades

Vicar's In Trouble

Midnight Hawk

Noble Moon


Rise Up

Shared Belief

New Year's Day

Bond Holder

Strong Mandate



We Miss Artie

Honor Code

Cairo Prince’s ownership group has experience on the Triple Crown trail. Namcook Stables, Paul Braverman, Harvey A. Clarke and Craig Robertson raced 2011 Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Soldat, who finished 11th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

Regular rider Luis Saez won a pair of Grade 1s in 2013 with Will Take Charge, who subsequently was named champion 3-year-old male. Luis Saez has never had a mount in the Kentucky Derby.

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile has all the ingredients of a potential top, young stallion. He was a Grade 1 winner at two and three who finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. Pioneerof the Nile is by 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and out of stakes winner Star of Goshen, by Lord At War. In Cairo Prince, he has a home run horse in his first crop, so the future looks plenty bright for Pioneerof the Nile.

Cairo Prince’s dam (mother) is stakes winner Holy Bubbette, by 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull. Holy Bubbette won two stakes races during her career but was purely a sprinter, never posting a victory in a race longer than six furlongs.

Cairo Prince’s half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) Holdin Bullets finished third in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint and three-quarter-sister Nonna Mia (by Empire Maker) was Grade 1-placed at a mile. Holy Bubbette’s half-sister Sum Runner was a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles and a graded stakes winner sprinting.

Cairo Prince is another 3-year-old who doesn’t have the classic 1 ¼-mile pedigree but in this case he should get enough stamina from his sire and enough class from his female family to continue to be a factor as the races get longer. Does he have enough pedigree to deliver a top performance in the Kentucky Derby? That remains to be seen, but his ability, running style and trainer provide plenty of reason for optimism.

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!