My top ranked Kentucky Derby 2016 contender Mohaymen is the even money favorite against nine rivals including undefeated juvenile champion Nyquist in Saturday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Florida Derby favorite Mohaymen – photo by Eclipse Sportswire
Mohaymen seems to have every advantage on Saturday. He is 2-for-2 at Gulfstream and drew outside his main rival Nyquist. He owns running style versatility and also won the G2 Remsen Stakes at the nine furlong Florida Derby distance last year.
Nyquist looked super in his G2 San Vicente return but the Florida Derby will be his first start around two turns in more than five months. He is chasing a $1 million bonus as a Fasig-Tipton sales graduate running in the Florida Derby and is expected to head straight to Kentucky to prepare for the Derby after Saturday’s race.
Fellowship finished 3rd in the G2 Holy Bull and G2 Fountain of Youth and there is a good chance that he will occupy that spot again. The others seem overmatched and another show finish (or possibly 4th) will net Fellowship enough points to quality for the Kentucky Derby.
The Grade 2 Spiral Stakes attracted a full field of twelve with two also-eligibles. The nine furlong Kentucky Derby prep will be contested on Polytrack (synthetic footing) and it is worth a total of 85 Derby qualifying points (50-20-10-5), half the amount of points offered in the Florida Derby.
Jensen has been part of my Derby list for the last few weeks but owner/trainer Larry Jones did not nominate him to the Triple Crown at the recently concluded late stage and would have to pay $200,000 to supplement him if he earns enough Derby qualifying points in the Spiral. Jones is on record as saying he can make good money with the son of Haynesfield by ducking the big boys and choosing his spots wisely. He drops off my list but could resurface if he dominates the Spiral and they decide to pay the supplemental fees.
Graded Recaps (2016 Derby Points Races)
G2 Louisiana Derby (3-26-16, 91 BSF): In a replay of the G2 Risen Star, Gun Runner sat a perfect stalking trip and got the jump on a troubled Mo Tom again. The latter received a questionable ride but late runners in full fields are always at the mercy of the pace, need racing luck, and are frequently bad win propositions. Tom’s Ready occasionally shows up with a big effort and he is in the Derby for Dallas Stewart after finishing 2nd on Saturday. Stewart can be dangerous in the exotics with longshots in Triple Crown races (Golden Soul, Commanding Curve, Tale of Verve). Dazzling Gem picked up 20 points for finishing 3rd but he is not close to being as talented as very unlucky 4th place finisher Mo Tom (36 Derby points). My longtime Top 5 Derby contender Greenpointcrusader was a bust in 7th place. I never liked the decision to take time off after his solid 2nd in the G2 Holy Bull and I am not sure what they are going to do next. 14 Derby points is not going to cut it and he is a NY horse so maybe they shoot for the Peter Pan/Belmont Stakes. Is he better routing or sprinting? Does he need a wet track? There are more questions than answers and he drops off my list. The speed figure came back low and the Fair Grounds horses are not fast enough to be considered major win contenders on the first Saturday in May.
Jarrod Horak’s “Exceptional Eleven” Kentucky Derby 2016 Contenders
(1) MOHAYMEN (Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) – Owner (Shadwell Stable)
Latest Workout: 4f breeze in :48.95 (9/46) at Palm Meadows on March 24.
Comments: The $2.2 million purchase is undefeated and 4-for-4 in the graded ranks (G2 Nashua, G2 Remsen, G2 Holy Bull, G2 Fountain of Youth). The versatile sort has shown no chinks in the armor and can cement his status as the early Kentucky Derby favorite with a win in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, April 2. I started my Kentucky Derby 2016 contenders list last September and Mohaymen has occupied the top spot all along.
Derby Points (70)
(2) MOR SPIRIT (Eskendereya – Im a Dixie Girl, by Dixie Union)
Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael Lund Petersen)
Latest Workout: 5f in :59 (1/20) at Santa Anita on March 30.
Comments: Jockey Gary Stevens and trainer Bob Baffert used the G2 San Felipe Stakes to teach Mor Spirit to relax and finish up strong and their mission was accomplished after he rallied for the place and galloped out strongly. They want him to peak on the first Saturday in May and the $650k son of Eskendereya has never finished out of the Exacta. He received valuable shipping experience in a place finish over wet footing in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill last fall and should be set for a big effort in the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, April 9. He stays put at #2, a spot he has occupied since Oct 24.
Derby Points (44)
(3) NYQUIST (Uncle Mo – Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry)
Trainer (Doug O’Neill) – Owner (Reddam Racing LLC.)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:03 (56/72) at Santa Anita on March 25.
Comments: The 2-year-old champion has not competed in a Kentucky Derby points race since the 2015 BC Juvenile and the upcoming Florida Derby will be his first two turn race in more than five months. I do not like his one sprint/one route path to the Kentucky Derby and he is eligible for a $1 million Fasig-Tipton sales graduate bonus if he wins the Florida Derby on April 2. He moves up a notch to #3.
Derby Points (30)
(4) EXAGGERATOR (Curlin – Dawn Raid, by Vindication)
Trainer (Keith Desormeaux) – Owner (Big Chief Racing, LLC)
Latest Workout: 5f in 1:00.40 (11/54) at Santa Anita Park on March 26.
Comments: He made a big, premature move in the G2 San Felipe before flattening out and finishing 3rd behind Danzig Candy and Mor Spirit last time. Many have seemingly jumped ship and decided that he has distance limitations but I want to see what he does in the SA Derby before making any final conclusions. He has plenty of seasoning and foundation and I like the way trainer Keith Desormeaux has handled him this year in regards to distance progression (7f, 8.5f, 9f). Hopefully jockey Kent Desormeaux is more patient with him in the SA Derby because he needs a well-timed ride and a strong finish in his final Derby prep. He moves up one spot to #4.
Derby Points (26)
(5) MATT KING COAL (Cool Coal Man – Donna Marie, by Came Home)
Trainer (Linda Rice) – Owner (Lady Sheila Stable)
Latest Workout: 7f in 1:25.28 (1/1) at Belmont Park (dirt training) on March 30.
Comments: We know he is fast because of his two juvenile speed figures in a clear place finish at 8.5 furlongs at Belmont Oct 3 (93 BSF) and a 96 BSF for his easy flat mile wire job maiden win at that same venue Oct 29. Following a respiratory infection, he spiked a fever, missed the G3 Jerome on Jan 3, and went to the farm for a vacation. He returned to the work tab Feb 7 and made his first 2016 start in the third race on Sunday, March 6 at Aqueduct (inner dirt). In that Optional Claiming event at a mile and a sixteenth, he went wire-to-wire and earned a 97 BSF, a number much better than the G3 Gotham a day earlier. The Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9 is next and he should be a strong factor from start to finish in that event. He will get a class and distance test in the Wood and we will know if he is the real deal after that affair. He makes his debut in the Top 5.
(6) DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer)
Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC)
Comments: The improving son of Giant’s Causeway exits back-to-back stakes wins in the Sam F. Davis (91 BSF) and G2 Tampa Bay Derby (100 BSF). Creative Cause’s brother owns fine positional speed and is getting good at the right time but still needs to prove his worth away from the friendly confines of Tampa Bay Downs. We are closing in on three weeks since the Tampa Bay Derby and he has yet to resurface on the work tab. He is expected to go next in the Blue Grass or Arkansas Derby. He moves up one spot to #6.
Derby Points (51)
(7) DANZING CANDY (Twirling Candy – Talkin and Singing, by Songandaprayer)
Trainer (Clifford Sise Jr.) – Owner (Halo Farms)
Latest Workout: 5f bullet in :58.60 (1/54) at Santa Anita Park on March 26.
Comments: Ran his win streak to three with a sharp wire-to-wire score in the G2 San Felipe, smartly beating quality Derby contenders Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. He is fast and talented but he still has some stamina and versatility questions to answer. I would consider him a very serious Kentucky Derby win contender if he relaxes and finish strongly in the SA Derby at nine furlongs. He drilled a faster than expected five furlong bullet on March 26 and his connections need to harness his speed and leave something in the tank for the SA Derby on April 9. He goes from #8 to #7.
Derby Points (50)
(8) SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Mineshaft – Uchitel, by Afleet Alex)
Trainer (Donnie K Von Hemel) – Owner (Samuel F. Henderson)
Latest Workout: 4f in :48.80 (8/39) at Oaklawn Park on April 1.
Comments: He made his way onto my list after a strong last-to-first score in the G3 Southwest, his sixth exacta finish from as many starts up to that point. In his last start in the G2 Rebel Stakes on March 12, he was wide early from post 14, raced in traffic, briefly lost action, steadied, and missed 4th by a head in a troubled, inconclusive effort. He deserves another chance and will get a shot at redemption in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, April 16. He is on his way back up the ladder to #8.
Derby Points (10)
(9) BRODY’S CAUSE (Giant’s Causeway – Sweet Breanna, by Sahm)
Trainer (Dale Romans) – Owner (Albaugh Family Stable)
Latest Workout: 4f in :47.90 (17/76) at Gulfstream Park on March 27.
Comments: The G1 Breeders’ Futurity winner and G1 BC Juvenile show finisher threw in a clunker in his G2 Tampa Bay Derby return on March 12. Some horses do not handle the Tampa Bay surface so he gets a mulligan and is expected to have his final Derby prep in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday, April 9. We know he likes Keeneland (1st Breeders’ Futurity, 3rd BC Juvenile) and he broke his maiden at Churchill so a return to Kentucky might be just what the doctor ordered. He advances two spots to #9 and will remain on the list until he runs in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Derby Points (14)
(10) CUPID (Tapit – Pretty ‘n Smart, by Beau Genius)
Trainer (Bob Baffert) – Owner (Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derek Smith)
Latest Workout: 4f in :50 (37/44) at Santa Anita Park on March 31.
Comments: The late bloomer is getting good in a hurry and it is all about two turns. He lost his first two sprint starts (finished 2nd Jan 9) but proceeded to easily graduate at a mile and a sixteenth Feb 7 and followed that up with a gritty prominent throughout score in the G2 Rebel Stakes March 19. He will probably return to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby. He makes his debut on the list at #10.
Derby Points (50)
(11) ZULU (Bernardini – Temporada, by Summer Squall)
Trainer (Todd Pletcher) – Owner (Stonestreet Stables, Tabor, Magnier, and Smith)
Latest Workout: 4f in :49.43 (14/24) at Palm Beach on March 26.
Comments: What he lacks in seasoning he makes up for in talent. The Pletcher trainee returns to my list after dropping off the last couple of weeks to make room for the likes of Destin and Danzing Candy. The Fountain of Youth runner-up was originally scheduled to run in the Florida Derby but his connections did not want to take on the two undefeated heavyweights in that contest so he will leave Gulfstream for the first time and shoot for the Blue Grass or Wood Memorial.
Derby Points (20)
THE NEXT NINE: (12) Mo Tom, (13) Gun Runner, (14) My Man Sam, (15) Shagaf, (16) Whitmore, (17) Kasseopia, (18) Outwork, (19) Tom’s Ready, (20) Fellowship