Nyquist en route to Keeneland; Mohaymen looks forward to rematch in Kentucky Derby
Edited press releases from Gulfstream
Champion Nyquist is doing well after his impressive victory in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Doug O’Neill returned to his California base late Saturday night, while the unbeaten Nyquist will continue on his Triple Crown quest in Kentucky.
“Talking to the crew, he looks good and he ate up well,” said O’Neill of Nyquist, who left Gulfstream at approximately 9:30 a.m. (EDT) Sunday.
Owned by Reddam Racing LLC, Nyquist was perfect in five starts in 2015 and capped his stellar season by prevailing in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland. Reddam purchased the son of Uncle Mo for $400,000 13 months ago at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale at Gulfstream Park, and Fasig-Tipton offered a $1 million bonus if a Florida Sale graduate could capture the Gulfstream’s marquee event the following year.
Nyquist opened 2016 by carrying 124 pounds to victory in the seven-furlong San Vicente S. (G2) at Santa Anita on February 15, and returned to the Sunshine State last week to solidify his credentials for the Triple Crown contests.
“We had this plan from after the Breeders’ Cup of what we wanted to do and it’s all unfolding perfectly,” O’Neill added.
Together with owners Paul and Zillah Reddam as well as jockey Mario Gutierrez, O’Neill enjoyed classic victories with I’ll Have Another in 2012. That experience prepared the California horseman for the challenges Nyquist faces during the duration of his spring campaign.
“It’s nothing but great, really,” O’Neill said. “It’s definitely different with the fact that this guy is undefeated. If it’s possible, this might be a touch greater.”
Nyquist became the first Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old to capture the Florida Derby since Fly So Free in 1991, and the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero to follow up in the Florida Derby since Unbridled’s Song in 1996. Now seven-for-seven lifetime, he has earned $2,322,600 on the track for the Reddams.
Mixed emotions prevailed at trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn on Sunday, the morning after Shadwell Stable’s multiple Grade 2 winner Mohaymen suffered his first career loss in the Florida Derby.
Though disappointed in the Tapit colt’s fourth-place finish behind undefeated champion Nyquist, McLaughlin was pleased with how Mohaymen emerged from the race, both mentally and physically.
“He came out of the race in good shape. He’s happy,” McLaughlin said as he overlooked Mohaymen’s stall just outside his barn office at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
“He’s never been beat and we thought he was invincible going in so, yeah, we’re a little down about the result and thought he could overcome everything,” he added. “But, we’re moving forward. We’re happy that he’s happy this morning and we can move forward to the Kentucky Derby.”
The 65th running of the Florida Derby featured a matchup of East vs. West in Mohaymen and Nyquist, who had shipped in from California the week of the race with a perfect 6-0 record. Mohaymen opened his sophomore campaign with a pair of Gulfstream stakes wins, the Holy Bull (G2) and Fountain of Youth (G2).
Breaking from post nine of 10 as the 4-5 favorite, Mohaymen found himself wide throughout the 1 1/8-mile race while Nyquist led from start to finish from post 4, dismissing Mohaymen’s brief challenge at the top of the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths.
Both Mohaymen and rider Junior Alvarado geared down in the stretch and wound up beaten 8 1/4 lengths over a main track that had taken rain intermittently during the 14-race program. McLaughlin said Alvarado, aboard for all six starts, would retain the mount for the Derby
“We aren’t going to make a change. Junior didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t his fault,” McLaughlin said.
“We feel like it was a perfect storm of unfortunate things that happened with the track, raining earlier and then later. Basically it was very wet and we were very wide. We ran 54 feet further than the winner, but congratulations to Nyquist and their team. They had to run over the same racetrack under the same conditions and they did it better than us.
“Congratulations to them, because it was a big showdown. We’ll regroup and point for the Kentucky Derby and hope for the best.”
McLaughlin said Mohaymen will leave South Florida next week for Louisville, Kentucky, and do his training at Churchill Downs, where the Derby will be run May 7.
“He’s a pretty smart horse and he didn’t love the going yesterday," McLaughlin said. "It wasn’t a hard race on him as far as him blowing and being stressed and head-and-head. People thought maybe it wasn’t good to have a tough race right before the Derby. It’s not going to be a tough race on him, so we’ll throw it out and move on.
“We probably will go to Churchill and be there for two works. He’s fit and doesn’t need a lot of works. He needs to put on a few pounds so hopefully we can do that up there with the cooler weather. This track is great and we love it here. It was weird how hot it’s been and muggy the last few days, but we’ll go that way and train for the Derby.”
Fellowship’s six-wide sweep into third in the Florida Derby in all likelihood earned the Jacks or Better Farm’s homebred colt a berth in the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby.
Although a firm decision hadn’t been made about Fellowship’s Triple Crown future Sunday morning, trainer Stanley Gold was feeling confident that the Run for the Roses would be a good fit for the son of Awesome of Course.
“I think the next start he will be even better. He’s improved with each race. He’s run good and consistent all three times against the best,” said Gold, who has saddled Fellowship for third-place finishes in the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby. “So we know how he’d fare against the best. It’s not like we’ve been running away from them. We went up against the Top 2 up to this point. A mile and a quarter will be better than a mile and an eighth.”
Fellowship stood 13th in the Kentucky Derby Point Standings following Saturday’s preps with 32 points after earning 20 points in the Florida Derby, which offered 170 qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 basis.
“He was running all the way. The champion beat us 4 1/2 lengths and we were still running,” said Gold, whose trainee captured the $500,000 In Reality division of the Florida Sire S. in his first start around two turns in October.
“I’m still optimistic that his best races are ahead of him.”
Photos courtesy Coglianese Photography (top of Nyquist by Lauren King; Mohaymen on outside by Leslie Martin)