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Submitted by Gasper Moschera on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Florida Derby: Wildcat Red draws rail in field of eight

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Eight 3-year-olds, led by likely favorite Cairo Prince, were entered Wednesday for Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Cairo Prince, an easy winner of the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes in his only start at 3, will break from post 3 with Luis Saez aboard in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Wildcat Red, the winner of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, drew the rail, much to the delight of his trainer, Jose Garoffalo.

Wildcat Red will be ridden for the first time in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby by John Velazquez.

The remainder of the Florida Derby lineup, in post-position order: Matador (Julien Leparoux), Constitution (Javier Castellano), East Hall (Juan Leyva), General a Rod (Joel Rosario), Allstar (Orlando Bocachica), and Spot (Corey Lanerie).

Garoffalo nodded his head in approval after it was announced that Wildcat Red would break from post 1.

“He’s going to be the speed of the race, so the post position is going to favor him,” Garoffalo said.

Wildcat Red contested the pace with General a Rod before holding on determinedly to defeat that rival by a head in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth. The victory was worth 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, virtually assuring Wildcat Red a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.

Trainer Mike Maker also was pleased with his draw, post 6, for General a Rod in the rubber match with Wildcat Red. General a Rod defeated Wildcat Red by a head in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day.

“I’m very pleased to be able to sit outside Wildcat Red again,” Maker said. “I’ll leave it up to Joel [Rosario], but if Constitution pushes Wildcat Red early, we’ll be able to sit behind him this time.”

Both East Hall and Allstar were late additions to the field. East Hall is coming off an eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby after having rallied from the rear of the field over a speed-biased track to finish fourth in the Fountain of Youth. Allstar won a first-level allowance going seven furlongs at Calder in his last start.

“He had a major excuse in Tampa,” said East Hall’s trainer, Bill Kaplan. “He got knocked absolutely sideways and suffered a puncture wound in his left front in that, and we weren’t planning on running him in the Florida Derby. But he healed quickly, he worked very nicely on Monday, and looked great on the track this morning, so he’s telling me he’s okay to go, and I want to give him a little shot. There’s a lot of pace in this race, so we’ll try to lay back and come on late, just like we did in the Fountain of Youth.”

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