The following post first appeared at Paulick Report.
Twenty years ago, the most important gray 3-year-old colt in the world was a Florida-bred son of Great Above. Unbeaten in a conservative campaign at 2, the fleet gray went on to become champion of his division and to win the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year in 1994 after victories in the Florida Derby, Blue Grass, Metropolitan Handicap, Haskell, Woodward Stakes, and Travers.
On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, they renewed the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes named in honor of that big gray champion, and the winner was a colt of immense potential, just like Holy Bull 20 years ago.
Cairo Prince won the Holy Bull convincingly and has been beaten only once, in the G2 Remsen Stakes last fall at Aqueduct by the highly regarded Honor Code (by A.P. Indy).
Both are leading prospects for the Classics, and Cairo Prince, from the first crop by Pioneerof the Nile, is out of a stakes-winning daughter of Holy Bull.
In addition to sharing Holy Bull’s gray coat, Cairo Prince shares some physical traits with his famous grandfather. Steve Shahinian, the bloodstock consultant who purchased Cairo Prince for the partnership that races the colt, said that, “like Holy Bull, this colt is a big horse. He is a fast horse with an elegant stride, has a really good mind, and has a monster ticker.”
When Shahinian evaluated this colt at the sale, “he was just what I look for at the sales, and he was so much that horse that I recommended him twice.”
The first time was at the 2012 Keeneland January sale where Shahinian went to buy a short yearling to pinhook for himself. He said, “I went through the first eight barns, and when I saw this colt, I stopped shopping for myself and went to work trying to find investors to buy him.”
Unfortunately, he did not succeed at that. But Shahinian did recommend the growthy gray to his friend Mike Chovanes, DVM, on behalf of Mandy Pope. She bought the colt in partnership with another outfit for $200,000, and the next time that Shahinian saw the Pioneerof the Nile colt was at the September sale that fall.
Shahinian really liked what he saw in the nine months older colt. He said, “I saw how much he had grown from January and how well he had developed. His cardio had progressed from January and was even better than it had been as a younger horse.”
Jay Kilgore from DataTrack International evaluated Cairo Prince and gave Shahinian a highly positive review of the colt. Kilgore said, “This colt possessed an outstanding cardio, and from what we’ve seen, a substantial cardio is a trait we’ve come to expect from Holy Bull and many of his descendants.”
Even more than in January, Shahinian was high on Cairo Prince, but there was a big difference this time.
This time, he had the financial firepower to back up his interest.
The group he put to together to purchase Cairo Prince was Namcook Stable (Terry Murray), Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke, and Craig Robertson, and they succeeded in buying Cairo Prince at the September sale for $250,000. This group also owned Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Soldat (War Front) for most of his career.
Shahinian had selected Soldat for Clarke and Robertson. Then, when the colt ran a big fig early in his 3-year-old season at Gulfstream, they began to get serious offers to purchase an interest in him. Shahinian said, “I thought it would be wise for the owners (Harvey and Craig) to take some money off the table, and I went to Kiaran McLaughlin for some additional investors who would be straightforward partners for that horse.”
The trainer recommended Terry Murray and Jake Conley, who raced as Namcook Stables, and Paul Braverman, who often partnered with them on other horses. Shahinian said, “They committed to purchase an interest in Soldat on a Wednesday and found themselves in the winner’s circle on Saturday; so we got off to a pretty good start. Then I got a chance to buy a couple of horses for them, and it was a natural fit to recommend that they partner again with Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson on the Pioneerof the Nile colt at the 2012 Keeneland September sale.
“And that’s how they got involved with Cairo Prince,” Shahinian said. “This group gets along very well and brought an entourage of about 25 people to the winner’s circle of the Holy Bull. If you have a very good horse who has a chance in a graded stakes, it is exciting, but if you have a very good horse in a graded stakes who is expected to win, that gets a little nerve wracking.”
Before Cairo Prince ever ran, Shahinian gave his nerves a good twist by telling the “owners that this was the best horse I’d ever bought. Generally, I cannot buy the offspring of an established, successful sire. The best individuals by those sires bring a hefty premium. Instead, I buy really nice individuals by young sires like War Front and Pioneerof the Nile.”
Although Shahinian doesn’t buy many horses, he does buy good ones. He noted that he had purchased only two yearling colts in 2012 that are now 3-year-olds — Cairo Prince and a Candy Ride colt at Fasig-Tipton July who became a wobbler and then a single 2-year-old colt at last year’s in-training sales. That horse’s name is Scotland (a colt by Horse Greeley who recently ran third in the G2 Jerome at Aqueduct and will run on Saturday in the Withers at Aqueduct). [Editor’s Note: Scotland ran third in the Withers.]
Just as he had with Cairo Prince a year before, Shahinian wanted to buy another 2-year-old colt at the 2013 OBS March sale. He said, “The only other 2-year-old I had hoped to buy at the sales was Conquest Titan, who brought $475,000, and I didn’t have that kind of backing.”
In the Holy Bull on Saturday, Conquest Titan (Birdstone) ran a solid second to Cairo Prince.