Florida Derby, Gulfstream Park Oaks Notes

Nyquist training at Gulfstream Park - credit Leslie Martin
Leslie Martin

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Through the first five starts of his career, Shadwell Stable’s undefeated Mohaymen has taken everything in stride. He has steadily met the expectations that come with a yearling sales-topping $2.2 million price tag. He overcame some anxious moments in the paddock and starting gate prior to his second start, effortlessly handled the stretch-out around two turns, the transition from 2 to 3, and occasional traffic trouble of being bumped, behind and between horses.

Having beaten undefeated horses like Awesome Banner, Awesome Speed and Zulu and a Grade 1 winner in Greenpointcrusader, Mohaymen will face his biggest test yet against unbeaten 2-year-old champion Nyquist in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1).

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin continues to be impressed by his stable star, though not surprised that the gray or roan son of Grade 1 winner and prolific sire Tapit has been able to ease into the final weekend of Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet.

“I think he’s the type of horse that anything would go with him,” he said. “If we missed a work, he would probably overcome that. If we drew the one-hole, he would probably overcome that. He’s just a special colt that is fun to have in the barn. He is just a special, special horse.”

Thus far, Mohaymen has checked every box on the way to the Florida Derby, where he drew post nine and was installed as the even-money favorite in the field of 10. Nyquist will break from post four as the 6-5 second program choice. No other horse is shorter than 15-1.

It will be the biggest field Mohaymen has faced to date, one more than the eight horses he beat in the Remsen (G2) in November at Aqueduct to cap his juvenile season. He already owns two wins over Gulfstream’s main track this year in the Jan. 30 Holy Bull (G2) and Feb. 27 Fountain of Youth (G2), while Nyquist will making his first start in South Florida and just the second outside of California.

“I don’t think that it matters that much to everybody. Nyquist, he won at Keeneland and he won in California. He’s a very nice horse and I don’t think the track will be a negative for him,” McLaughlin said. “Certainly, we don’t have to worry about that. We have to worry more probably about the weather and what happens. We’d prefer it not to be sloppy just because we haven’t been on a sloppy track before.”

Starting last fall, McLaughlin laid out a plan for Mohaymen from his mid-September debut to make the Triple Crown races and has been able to stay on course with both workouts and races. Two years ago, he had promising Holy Bull winner Cairo Prince injured after running fourth in the Florida Derby and ultimately retired.

Last winter, Frosted looked like a winner of the Fountain of Youth before inexplicably backing up and winding up fourth. He would go on to win the Wood Memorial (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and run well in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Belmont (G1) and Travers (G1) behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“Sometimes you have a plan and your plans don’t come together. So far with Mohaymen, everything has gone perfectly,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve learned from the past few years that sometimes you don’t want to announce your work schedule or your race schedule because things will change. So far, we’ve been very fortunate to stay on course.

“His work tab, we’ve had to move it a day or two here and there and the races have been right on schedule,” he added. “ It is quite unusual that we have been able to stay on course with our plan which is a plus to be able to do that. It’s been fun and all is well.”

Fellowship Could Make the Big ‘Show’ with Good Showing Saturday

A late-closing third behind Mohaymen in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth during the championship meet, Fellowship is rated third in the morning line behind Mohaymen and Nyquist for Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Should the Jacks or Better Farm homebred colt finish third (or better), the Stanley Gold-trained stretch-runner could stamp his ticket to Churchill Downs for a run in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 7. Tied for 24th with 12 points in the Kentucky Derby Point Standings heading into Gulfstream’s signature race, Fellowship would be in good shape to secure a berth in the 20-horse field with a 1-2-3 performance. The Florida Derby will offer a total of 170 Derby points on a 100-50-20-10 scale.

“I don’t think about it, honestly. It will take care of itself. I’m just worried about the Florida Derby. If it turns out he has enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby or even if he doesn’t have enough points, not everyone with points cares about running in the Derby. We may even be one if we’re lucky enough to be considered or get in, and it might be that Jacks or Better won’t want to run in the Derby,” Gold said. “I’m not giving it any thought right now. Sure, you can sit around and dream, but I’m not a dreamer.”

Fellowship came alive when stretched out around two turns for the first time in October, scoring a last-to-first triumph in the $500,000 Florida Sire Stakes In Reality at Gulfstream. The son of Awesome of Course has been stakes-placed in four of his subsequent starts, including his solid showings in the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth.

“The races are getting longer. The Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter. I’m not thinking about the Kentucky Derby; I’m thinking about the Florida Derby. When a horse is running late, you hope they can continue to sustain the late run. Distance isn’t a problem,” Gold said. “It’s still one race at a time. We’re in the Florida Derby; it’s a mile and an eighth. The Fountain of Youth was a mile and a sixteenth. I expect he’s got another sixteenth to keep coming, so we’ll see how close he gets.”

Gold’s immediate goal is to enjoy the experience of running a horse in the Florida Derby.

“It’s a big race, obviously. It’s the biggest day of the year, and it’s fun to be a part of the biggest day of the year. There’s nothing to be ashamed of to have the horse that finished third to the No. 1 horse that’s here. I’m going to enjoy it,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not going to be happy if he runs back, but I’m obviously not expecting him to run bad. My hope is he runs his race, he’s coming and he’s gets close enough to have an impact.”

Gomo Aggressive in Gulfstream Gallop

While most of the attention in Mark Hennig’s Gulfstream Park barn has been focused on its new temporary resident and reigning Eclipse Award-winning champion 2-year-old Nyquist, quietly accompanying her undefeated Doug O’Neill-trained stablemate is Gomo, a winner at the highest level as a 2-year-old who has not raced since taking the $400,000 Alcibiades Stakes (G1). The daughter of Uncle Mo will end that five-month break in an ambitious spot when she breaks from post five of seven in the $250,000 Gulfsteam Park Oaks (G2) on Saturday afternoon at the Hallandale oval.

On Thursday morning, the bay filly was able to stretch her legs into a gallop for the first time since arriving Tuesday for owner Reddam Racing, whose purple and white colors are also flown by her aforementioned four-time Grade I-winning stablemate. Entering the track at the three-eighths gap, the two-time winner jogged to the finish line and then reversed course to gallop a spirited mile with her trainer and assistants Jack Sisterson and Leandro Mora observing.

“Today was what we wanted to see,” Mora said. “She’s shipped very well and the good thing about her is she has never given us the problems that fillies can give you. They can change in an hour and can be tough, but she’s okay.”

The $75,000 OBS March 2015 purchase’s consistency in temperament has translated over to her performances. A game third in her debut going five furlongs at Santa Anita in early June, she then easily wired a field going a grassy mile at that Arcadia, California, track.

A return to dirt sprinting and a step up in class next out did not faze the compact charge when finishing a rallying runner-up – beaten 2¾ lengths – in the $200,000 Sorrento Stakes (G2) next out. Sandwiched between that effort and her 2¾-length victory in Keeneland’s sloppy Alcibiades renewal was a gaining third in the $101,000 Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar. In all, she has earned $332,320 and never failed to hit the board in her quintet of efforts while showing marked versatility.

“She hasn’t run in so long and she’s feeling so good, I have a feeling that she’s going to take off a bit and be a little rank, so we will talk to (Reddam) and decide on how best to ride her,” Mora continued. “She closed last time, but she may show speed (Saturday). She always tries hard, so hopefully we get lucky. In this sport you can have nice horses, but you have to rely on Mother Luck a lot.”

Sellitto Looking Once Again to Spring

Mike Sellitto, a former New York City policeman living in nearby Weston, is getting quite excited about the next several days, weeks and months.

Sellitto, who served as agent for jockey Jose Santos when he won the 2003 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness with Funny Cide and represented Kent Desormeaux when he won the 2008 Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) with Big Brown, is now looking for the hat trick with jockey Junior Alvarado, who will ride favored Mohaymen in Saturday’s Florida Derby.

“It’s very exciting,” said Sellitto. “The others were great, Funny Cide and Big Brown, and I also won a Belmont with Summer Bird (in 2009 with Desormeaux), but I think this one has a little extra flavor because you really don’t know how good [Mohaymen] can be.”

Sellitto found out about Funny Cide while traveling early in the winter of 2003 through Ocala while he picked up Big Brown when his initial rider had another commitment. As for Mohaymen, Sellitto has his eyes on the colt over the summer at Saratoga. Irad Ortiz Jr., was named to originally ride Mohaymen but the race didn’t fill. When he was entered again, Ortiz had a commitment to ride in the Pennsylvania Derby. “So I got the call,” Sellitto said.

Sellitto, a New York City patrolman who worked in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, retired in 1994 to become a jock’s agent.

Derby Notes: Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, born and raised in nearby Davie, will ride in his first Grade I race Saturday when he gets aboard Takeittotheedge in the Derby….Gaffalione’s father, Steve, won the 1989 Tampa Bay Derby (G3) aboard Storm Predictions…First race post time is noon Saturday…Saturday’s Late Pick 4 will have a guaranteed pool of $350,000 while the Late Pick 5 will have a $250,000 guaranteed pool…The Florida Derby Hat Contest will be held in the walking ring prior to the 8th race. Total prizes for all age groups will be $1,000. Christine A. Moore is the Official Milliner of the Florida Derby…

Source: Gulfstream Park

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