Mohaymen continues to answer every question; Bernardini represented by a pair of up-and-coming runners
BY DICK POWELL
MOHAYMEN (Tapit), once again, answered every question posed to him in last Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park and right now, he looks unstoppable on his march to the Kentucky Derby (G1).
What will make this year’s campaign especially juicy is that last year’s champion juvenile male, NYQUIST (Uncle Mo), will ship east and contest the Florida Derby (G1) to take advantage of a $1 million bonus for graduates of the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2YOs in training.
These two undefeated heavyweights will square off on April 2 at nine furlongs and someone is going down. Usually, trainers try to go down the path of least resistance to get to the Derby without a grueling race, but the $1 million carrot will bring Nyquist to Gulfstream Park.
Ordinarily, I would have expected trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to ship to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial (G1) but he wants to stay at his Palm Meadows training base as long as he can. So he stays home, Nyquist shows up and we get to see an unexpected matchup of the two leading sophomores.
Lurking in the shadows are two sons of Bernardini (A.P. Indy) that keep getting better. On Saturday, Chad Brown sends out SHAGAF for his stakes and two-turn debut in the $400,000 Gotham Stakes on the inner dirt track at Aqueduct.
Owned by Shadwell Stable, who also campaigns Mohaymen, Brown is getting Shagaf out of Florida and will give stakes company a try. The Wood Memorial will probably be next if all goes well in the Gotham.
An easy winner of his career debut on the Aqueduct main track, Shagaf showed up in one-turn mile allowance at Gulfstream Park on January 29 and won by two lengths. Now, in the Gotham, he tries two turns on a tighter dirt course and will step up in company. Even though his allowance win was a step backwards based on BRIS Speed rating (a regression of nine points from his debut win), he should get a world of benefit out of it and be primed for a big move forward.
Shagaf is out of Muhaawara (Unbridled’s Song), who won a stakes race going two turns on the Aqueduct inner dirt track. She is a half-sister to distance specialist Eldaafer (A.P. Indy), who win four graded stakes including the Brooklyn Handicap (G2) at 1 ½ miles, the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G3) at 1 ¾ miles, the Turfway Park Fall Championship (G3) at 1 ½ miles and the Greenwood Cup (G3) at 1 ½ miles. Clearly, the longer they go, the better Shagaf will do and one could argue that the Gotham at 1 1/16 miles might be too short for him.
Another son of Bernardini that might make some noise down the road is ZULU, who was second to Mohaymen in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth. An easy winner of his first two career starts in sprints on wet tracks, the Fountain of Youth was the first attempt going two turns and proved that he belongs.
Going down the backstretch, Johnny Velazquez asked Zulu for run and the response was immediate. He forged to a short-lived lead but what I liked about him was that when Mohaymen, who is much more experienced and seasoned, went up to challenge, Zulu battled on to the wire to miss by 2 ¼ lengths.
Zulu, in his third career start, earned a BRIS Speed rating of 99. Yes, he was getting four pounds from Mohaymen but he is another, like Shagaf, that will only get better.
A $900,000 purchase out of the same Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2YOs in training last year, he is out of a dam by Summer Squall (Storm Bird) which means that Zulu is in-bred to Secretariat’s (Bold Ruler) daughter Weekend Surprise. This is a lot of dirt stamina for an American pedigree.
Wednesday saw the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2YOs and there were four juveniles that sold for $1 million or more. I am not an expert at picking out juveniles in training and some of the ones that worked the fastest did not impress me. Maybe for the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs but not for our classic races as they were ridden like Slim Pickens was aboard.
One that did catch my eye and I’ll keep track of was Hip No. 77. A New York-bred son of Mission Impazible (Unbridled’s Song), he worked a furlong in 10-seconds flat but did it with authority. I thought his stride was immense and he was not cowboy ridden so the 10-flat time was even more impressive.
The colt sold for $290K and I hope to see him at Saratoga this summer. His breeder, Tracy Egan, is the current head of the New York State Breeding and Development Fund and his second dam has produced a pair of nice stakes winners.