|Mohaymen, left, gave ground after nearly catching Nyquist, center.|
(Photo by Matthew Stockman, Getty Images)
By Stepper Toth
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
Shadwell Farm’s Mohaymen is no longer the Kentucky Derby favorite after finishing fourth Saturday in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. But he remains a top Derby prospect, as does Shagaf, the Shadwell homebred who will race in this Saturday’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in New York, another mile-and-an-eighth, $1 million Derby prep.
Nyquist won the Florida Derby, beating Majesto by 3 ¼ lengths and Fellowship by 4¼. Mohaymen pulled even to Nyquist at the top of the stretch, but Nyquist pulled away.
Perfection in thoroughbred racing is very rare, but Mohaymen and Nyquist both had perfect records coming into the Florida Derby. It’s also unusual for the top two Derby prospects to face each other in their final prep for the Derby, which will be run May 7.
There is a distant connection between the two horses. Kent Barnes, stallion manager at the Shadwell farm on Leestown Road, said Nyquist’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, has sold the breeding rights to Jonabell Farm in Lexington, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the brother of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the owner of Shadwell Farm. Barnes said Jonabell can be seen from the Shadwell property on Fort Springs-Pinckard Road in Lexington.
|Photo by Jonathan Dunn|
Nyquist (right) arrived in Lexington Sunday to train at Keeneland Race Course before going to Churchill Downs for the Derby.
Mohaymen’s trainer, Lexington native Kiaran McLaughlin, told racing writers that he will probably bring Mohaymen to Churchill early to work out, gain weight, and build strength. "It's like a vitamin shot going into cooler weather after being down here for four months,” McLaughlin told The Courier-Journal. “Hopefully that would help Mohaymen in general – not necessarily with liking the track or anything but maybe stimulate his appetite. I always feel like he's a little light.”
McLaughin told The C-J’s Jonathan Lintner that the horse came out of the race in good shape and he does not plan to change his training plan.
McLaughlin told reporters at Gulfstream that he saw two possible reasons for Mohaymen’s disappointing performance. It rained earlier in the day, and the track was rated good rather than fast. Mohaymen has only raced on fast tracks. Mohaymen also got hung out wide in the race, making him run 54 feet farther than Nyquist, almost 1 percent of the race’s 5,940 feet, according to Trakus.com.
Mohaymen’s jockey, Junior Alvarado, told reporters on the scene, “This time he wasn’t pulling me.”
According to The C-J’s DerbyHQ Top 20 Poll of racing journalists from around the country, Nyquist is No. 1 in the list with a record 12 first-place votes, Mohaymen is fifth, and Shagaf is seventh, with a first-place vote. The top 10 in order are Nyquist, Gun Runner, Mor Spirit, Danzing Candy, Mohaymen, Cupid, Shagaf, Destin, Whitmore and Zulu.
Frank Angst of The Blood-Horse wrote that he has Mohaymen at No. 3 because the gray colt “has accomplished enough to forgive that outing.” Tim Wilkin of the Albany Times-Union, also ranking Mohaymen third, wrote, “How much do you penalize Mohaymen for his flop in Florida when he finished fourth?”
Jon White from Santa Anita Park has Shagaf in first place. “In the wake of Mohaymen's loss in the Florida Derby,” he wrote, “Shagaf now has become Shadwell Stable's lone undefeated colt heading to the Kentucky Derby.”
Mohaymen and Shagaf also ranked in the top 10 in the most recent Derby Future Wager Pool at Churchill Downs, which ended the day after the Florida Derby. Bettors lifted Nyquist to first at odds of 3 to 1 and lowered Mohaymen to second at 8-1. Cupid and Mor Spirit were third at 11-1, Gun Runner was fifth at 13-1, Danzing Candy and Destin were sixth at 16-1 and Shagaf and Mo Tom were tied for eighth at 17-1.