Melatonin’s speed, Mo Tom’s closing kick on display

Profile Picture: James Scully

June 28th, 2016

Don’t waste any time analyzing his first nine starts in 2013-15, those races don’t matter. When it comes to Melatonin, his racing career essentially began on February 6 at Santa Anita. That’s when the 5-year-old made his two-turn debut, winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claimer by 3 ¾ lengths.

The David Hofmans trainee followed with a 4 ¼-length upset in the Santa Anita H. (G1) on March 12, leading wire to wire in a breakout performance. Melatonin didn’t have everything his own way on the front end of his next two outings but continued to display high class with a runner-up effort in the April 16 Oaklawn H. (G2) and a 1 ½-length victory in last Saturday’s Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1).

Connections had no idea added ground would prove beneficial when racing Melatonin exclusively at 6 or 6 ½ furlongs the past three years. Like most observers, they believed a son of Kodiak Kowboy out of a Yankee Victor mare should favor shorter distances but that isn’t the case with Melatonin.

The two-turn transformation has resulted in outstanding BRIS Speed ratings of 107-105-105 in the last three starts.

The Gold Cup competition wasn’t stellar, with Win the Space finishing second as the 24-1 longest shot and Hoppertunity a disappointing fourth. But Melatonin got the job done and will continue to bring excellent speed to future engagements.

And while he’s not the horse to beat for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, Melatonin has established himself as a legitimate contender.

One only has to refer back to Bayern, who led every step of the way in the 2014 Classic as the fourth choice in the wagering, to see the value of quality speed at Santa Anita.

California Chrome heads the California older horse division and bypassed the Gold Cup in favor of upcoming Del Mar engagements along with notables such as Dortmund and Firing Line. Beholder also belongs in any Breeders’ Cup Classic discussion as well as local Grade 1-winning 3-year-olds Nyquist and Exaggerator.

Melatonin will be facing classier foes later this year, but it’s easy to appreciate how he’s come out of nowhere to capture a pair of Grade 1 stakes at 1 ¼ miles. He’s now 4-for-4 on Santa Anita’s main track and the 2016 Breeders’ Cup will be held in his backyard.

Major races ahead

Troubled trips played a part but Mo Tom was winless since the Lecomte (G3) in early January, dropping three straight starts entering Saturday’s Ohio Derby. The listed 1 1/8-mile event served as a measuring stick as to whether the sophomore still belonged among the big boys in major stakes later this summer or whether he fit better against lesser lights in races like the West Virginia Derby (G2) in early August.

With the dominant three-length score, Mo Tom is back in a prime position. The Tom Amoss-trained colt needed the confidence-booster, notching a solid 98 BRIS Speed rating while winning under wraps, and the late runner appears ready to tackle better company going forward.

Mo Tom belongs in the next tier behind Nyquist and Exaggerator, along with rivals Creator and Gun Runner, and races like the Haskell (G1), Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1) will play a major role in determining who comes out on top in the 3-year-old division.

Melatonin photo courtesy of Benoit Photos