HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen continued his impressive march toward the Triple Crown late Saturday afternoon, keeping his perfect record intact by defeating previously unbeaten Zulu and Awesome Banner in the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The 70th running of the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth capped a spectacular day of racing that featured eight stakes, six of them graded, on a 13-race program and included victories by Cathryn Sophia in the $200,000 Davona Dale (G2), Catch a Glimpse in the $150,000 Herecomesthebride (G3), X Y Jet in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) and Converge in the $150,000 Palm Beach (G3).
Sent off as the 2-5 favorite in a field of six 3-year-olds, Mohaymen ($2.80) avoided some early jostling on the first turn while racing on the outside, caught lightly raced Zulu approaching the stretch and drew off to win by 2 ¼ lengths in 1:42.84 over a fast main track.
Zulu, making his stakes debut in his third lifetime start, was a clear second four lengths ahead of Fellowship. Awesome Speed, Awesome Banner and 131-l long shot Golden Ray completed the order of finish.
“You just never know,” winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “Awesome Banner and Zulu were undefeated, but we faced them and we won and everything is great. There will be other ones going forward. We’re going to have to face a lot of them.”
Mohaymen has faced and defeated all challengers thus far, improving his record to 5-0 with his fourth consecutive graded stakes victory. He won the Nashua (G2) and Remsen (G2) to cap a juvenile season that saw him named a finalist for champion 2-year-old male, and kicked off his sophomore campaign with a 3 ½-length score in the Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2) Jan. 30 at Gulfstream.
“It’s special. It’s more nerve-wracking each race because we’re four-for-four going into today and you never know what’s going to happen going forward. He’s obviously a very talented colt. We just hope we don’t have any mishaps in a race like a horse bumping into him or something like that,” McLaughlin said. “He’s a special colt, very smart. You can see he’s not even blowing when he’s coming back. He just does things different.”
Breaking from outside post six under regular rider Junior Alvarado, Mohaymen found himself wider than anticipated when Golden Ray bore out on the clubhouse turn and forced Awesome Speed out as well, causing Alvarado to steer clear of trouble. They sat fifth behind pacesetting Awesome Banner through a quarter-mile in 23.52 seconds, but had moved up to third after a half in 47.07.
Alvarado kept Mohaymen in a clear path on the outside of Zulu, who tracked Awesome Banner before taking over the top spot after running six furlongs in 1:11.02. Mohaymen ranged up to launch his bid rounding the far turn and assumed the lead without resistance at the head of the stretch before sprinting clear.
“It wasn’t what I wanted [going into the first turn] but Thank God he ran his race,” Alvarado said. “I was a little wide, there was a little bumping and I didn’t want to strangle him ant take him back right away and give it easily to the other horses, but he settled nice for me. By the five-eighths pole he started to get into a nice rhythm, that gear, and he started pulling on me, asking for the next step. I just let him cruise around and he was doing it very nicely. I didn’t want to hold him back. He helps me all the time so I didn’t want to go against him.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher was pleased with the performance of Zulu, racing for the first time around two turns after winning his previous two starts at Gulfstream including a 9 ¼-length allowance victory at seven furlongs Jan. 15.
“I thought he ran super,” he said. “He put in a formidable effort against a very good horse. I was proud of his effort. He was second-best today.”
McLaughlin said the next target for Mohaymen will be the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) April 2 at Gulfstream, where he is expected to meet similarly undefeated Nyquist, the California-based champion 2-year-old male of 2015.
“We’re going to take one race at a time and we are looking at the Florida Derby in five weeks,” he said. “He’s a very talented horse and he keeps winning. We’re all happy. That’s all we can do.”
$400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) Quotes
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin (Mohaymen): “It was OK. We were great in the six of six to stay out of trouble. I was a little worried about the one with the scooped blinker that was getting out a little bit into the first turn (Golden Ray), but it worked out great. Junior said he asked him a little bit earlier today to engage (Zulu) and he did. He thought he had him all the way. He did ask him a little bit earlier, and he said if he waited he might have kicked on stronger late, but he did it the right way.”
“It’s special. It’s more nerve-wracking each race because we’re four-for-four going into today and you just hope everything goes well. He’s obviously a very talented colt. We just hope we don’t have any mishaps in a race like a horse bumping into him or something like that.”
“I don’t think that he need a lot of education but when 20 of them get in the gate you just never know what’s going to happen going forward. It’s nice to have only six in the gate today and being six of six. He’s a very talented horse and he keeps winning. We’re all happy. That’s all we can do.”
“He’s a special colt. Very smart. You can see he’s not even blowing when he’s coming back. He just does things different. He’s a special colt.”
“We’re going to take one race at a time and we are looking at the Florida Derby in five weeks. We’ll have two or three works prior to it. We’ve been working on Fridays or Saturdays each week. We’ll work probably three times, maybe only twice but we’ll see.”
“You just never know. Undefeated horses you just never know. Awesome Banner and Zulu were undefeated but we faced them and we won and everything is great. There will be other ones going forward. We’re going to have to face a lot of them.”
Shadwell Stables U.S. Racing Manager Rick Nichols (Mohaymen): “It’s fantastic. It looks like he did it very easy. Junior said he was pulling him all along and kept him a little in check. He didn’t want to use him a lot in the end because we still have a long way ahead. Wonderful.”
“I think there’s been a little bit of criticism that he wouldn’t rate, one of those kind want to go flat-out all the time. I think he rated quite well with all the speed inside him. The plan was to let them go and let Mohaymen find his way.”
“We’ll speak to Sheikh Hamden and see how the horse comes out of the race. [Florida Derby] will probably be our goal.”
Jockey Junior Alvarado (Mohaymen): “It wasn’t what I wanted (going into first turn), but thank God he ran his race. I was a little wide, there was a little bumping and I didn’t want to strangle him and take him back right away and give it easily to the other horses. But he settled nice for me. By the five-eighths pole he started to get into a nice rhythm, that gear, and he started pulling on me, asking me for the next step. I just let him cruise around and he was doing it very nicely. I didn’t want to hold him back; he helps me all the time so I didn’t want to go against him.”
“I had to ask him a little more today because I let him run a little more from the half-mile pole. Turning for home when he’s switching leads I cannot check him, but maybe one or two times with the reins to let him know that he still needs to finish for me. He gave it to me right away. After that I geared him down, I didn’t want him to do that much. (Zulu and jockey John Velazquez) tried to engage me a little bit, but it’s horse racing—I’ve got the best horse today and he makes my job very easy. It doesn’t get much more exciting. I’ve always been very high on him. Each race he improves even more and he proves that he has everything that a rider would want in a horse to point to those big races.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher (Zulu): “I thought he ran super. It was a very good effort. He put in a formidable effort against a very good horse. I was proud of his effort. He was second best today and hopefully it’s something to improve on and build on. He gave us the impression he wanted more distance and I think he showed he can handle that. We’re still working on a few things. He got a little excited in the post parade and a little excited in the starting gate.”
Trainer Stanley Gold (Fellowship, Awesome Banner): “Disappointed in Awesome Banner. I think he should have tried to slow him down a little bit and not open up like that and use him. The other horse ran his race and I’m sure he’ll go on to Florida Derby and the further the better. He was running.”
Jockey John Velazquez (Zulu): I had a good trip. He had a really good effort for the first time around two turns, going from seven-eighths.”
Jockey Jose Caraballo (Awesome Banner): I had a good trip. I don’t think he really likes the distance. He’s still a nice colt.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Awesome Speed): “He had a good trip. Down the road I think he will get better.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano (Fellowship): “He gave me what he had.”
Source: Gulfstream Park