After winning the first five starts of his career, four of them Grade 2 stakes, Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen stood at the head of the 3-year-old class this past spring with the Triple Crown just around the corner.
Three straight off-the-board finishes ensued, however, most recently a fourth as the favorite in his return to action last month in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, the traditional local prep for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers presented by NYRA Bets.
Puzzling results called for a dramatic shakeup and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, after huddling with Shadwell general manager Rick Nichols, has re-routed Mohaymen to a date with sprinters Saturday in the 32nd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One King’s Bishop at Saratoga Race Course.
The King’s Bishop, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds, is one of seven graded stakes races – six Grade 1s – on a blockbuster race card highlighted by the Travers. Saturday’s card will receive 4 ½ hours of national television coverage, including NBC’s live telecast of the Grade 1 Longines Sword Dancer and the Travers from 4:30 – 6 p.m. EDT.
Pace Scenario – Fast
Speed: #2 Fish Trappe Road, #3 Summer Revolution, #9 Jazzy Times, #11 Noholdingback Bear, #13 Drefong
Stalkers: #1 Economic Model, #6 Mohaymen
Closers: #4 Tale of S’avall, #5 Bird Song, #7 Star Hill, #8 Mind Your Biscuits, #10 Rated R Superstar, #12 Tom’s Ready
Like always this race looks to be full of speed. Last year Runhappy was able to be the “speed of the speed” and take the field wire to wire, but it’s a question mark whether that can happen again. It will be ultra important for a few speed horses to sit off the pace, and Drefong could have the advantage drawing the far outside where he can see what is unfolding to his inside. Also the pace could really set up for a deep closer like Tom’s Ready who is super sharp right now.
Top Pick: #13 Drefong
Most people may think the 13 hole is a bad draw for Drefong, but I think the opposite when it’s a one turn race full of speed. Drefong has enough early speed to be tactical from this spot, but he should be able to see how things are unfolding to his inside and sit off the speed while waiting to make his run. His numbers have been off the hook leading up to this race, and he’s already beaten older horses twice. He’s won his last three races by nearly a combined 20 lengths which shows me he’s ready for this step up in class. He’s the morning line favorite which is something I don’t like, but I still think you will end up getting a square price on him. All systems are go for this up and coming horse.
Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers: #2 Fish Trappe Road, #3 Summer Revolution, #6 Mohaymen, and #12 Tom’s Ready
Obviously this is not a race you can go short in as several in here have a big time shot. Let’s start with Fish Trappe Road who ran huge to win the Dwyer Stakes last time out, and will probably run even better at seven furlongs today. Summer Revolution is the “now” horse as he’s only ran two races, but has put together back to back huge performances. Last time out he dominated at the same distance and on the same track as he’s running on todoay. Mohaymen might be able to sit the “Frosted Met Mile” trip, but is he good enough to make that kind of devastating move? Then there is Tom’s Ready who has to be smiling from ear to ear seeing as how the pace should be blazing on the front end. It will be set up for him once again to coming running with his late closing move.
Exotic Plays: #1 Economic Model and #7 Star Hill
I’m thinking Economic Model might be better going longer so this is why I wouldn’t put him on my multi race tickets. The seven furlongs might just be a bit too sharp for him, but his class is pretty strong. Star Hill is your classic underneath horse as he always runs the same race which is not good enough to beat elite competition. He’s finished third three straight times against graded stakes company, but one positive is he finally gets a solid post today.
Party Crashers: #8 Mind Your Biscuits and #9 Jazzy Times
Mind Your Biscuits made an impressive run late to take home the Amsterdam last time out, and with another round of improvement could do it again. He does his best running from off the pace so it’s possible he could get the perfect set up. Jazzy Times knows only one thing…and that’s to go to the front. He’ll have to be the “speed of the speed” to win this race, and I believe if anyone can take them wire to wire it will probably be him. It’ll be a tall order but if he can get clear he might get brave on the front end.
Throw Outs: #4 Tale of S’avall, #5 Bird Song, #10 Rated R Superstar, and #11 Noholdingback Bear
This truly is a race where anything can happen, but I can’t write an entire preview where I don’t try to help eliminate horses for you. None of this group of horses are ones I’ve ever been too high on, and each of them will have to step their game up in a major way. The one positive for a few in this group is the race might set up for them to make a run from the back of the pack.
To McLaughlin, the King’s Bishop presents a critical juncture for Mohaymen, a $2.2 million yearling purchase, as Shadwell eyes a future career for the horse as a stallion.
“It’s huge, and if he wins it, it’s off the charts,” McLaughlin said. “He’s won four Grade 2’s and to win a [seven-furlong] Grade 1 is huge as a stallion. He’s 2-for-2 around one turn. He broke his maiden at six [furlongs] and won the [Grade 2] Nashua at a mile at Aqueduct.”
McLaughlin and Shadwell were wavering between the King’s Bishop and Travers before finally settling on the shorter race last Saturday. Asked if the preparation was different for a seven-furlong race and a mile-and-a-quarter, McLaughlin said, “That’s a very good question, and you would think it would be different, and it might be a little different, but not with him and me.
“He never takes a deep breath; he never gets tired. So, once they’re fit, they’re fit, but he’s unusual in that regard. He’s clean-winded. He’s a fit racehorse.”
With the speedy allowance runners Drefong and Jazzy Times shipping in from California for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and the blazing but lightly raced Summer Revolution entered for Rudy Rodriguez, the pace should be fast for the King’s Bishop.
Except for his run in the Kentucky Derby, Mohaymen has always run within two lengths of the pace, but McLaughlin is not expecting such a forward placement in a return to sprinting.
“We feel like we’ll be more of a closer because we certainly can’t go :21, :43 or :44 [seconds] with those Baffert horses,” he said. “We’re not going to have to do much as far as taking him back. We’ll have to let [jockey] Junior [Alvarado] find his spot, whether it’s fourth or twelfth, or somewhere in between there, and hope he responds.
The King’s Bishop drew a field of 13, and a colt that might get lost in the thicket to bettors is the recent Grade 2 Amsterdam winner Mind Your Biscuits, racing for 22-year-old Brooklyn-born trainer Robert Falcone, Jr.
After running the first eight starts of his career against New York-bred opponents, Mind Your Biscuits stepped into open company and took the Amsterdam by 1 ¾ lengths with an off-the-pace effort. The win followed a 9 ¼-length score in a state-bred allowance race.
“A lot of people are underestimating him because he’s got an ‘NY’ next to his name,” Falcone said. “He beat a bunch of New York-breds and then he won the Amsterdam – that was the talk on the TV. He just won a New York allowance and now it’s open company, and all that, but he proved them wrong then so I’m hoping he can prove them wrong again.”
Mind Your Biscuits already has run three times at Saratoga, finishing second twice last year under a prior trainer and winning the Amsterdam. His highest Beyer Speed Figure in his first seven starts was an 80, but since Falcone added blinkers he has run a 94 and a 95.
“He’s matured a lot since he’s come to my barn, plus he fits my program well,” Falcone said. “I think the blinkers were the finishing touch.”
Two primary contenders are Fish Trappe Road and Economic Model, who ran 1-2 in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 9 at a mile at Belmont Park. In that race, Economic Model cut the corner on the turn and looked like a winner, but a determined Fish Trappe Road ran him down on the outside to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
After four starts in New York as a 2-year-old for trainer Brett Calhoun, Fish Trappe Road was set on a path to the Triple Crown, but his first prep race, the Grade 3 LeComte at the Fair Grounds, proved a disaster.
“Our plan last fall was to have this horse around two turns this year,” Calhoun said. “We had him ready for the first prep race at the Fair Grounds and everything went bad. He stumbled bad at the start, grabbed a quarter, and he bled. So, we had to back off and start over again.”
After 3 ½ months off, Fish Trappe Road reappeared in a seven-furlong optional claimer at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day and won by 5 ¼ lengths.
“I told everyone he’d run the first Saturday in May, I just didn’t say which race,” Calhoun quipped.
The owners in Martin Racing Stable wanted to go next into the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 11 at Belmont Park. Calhoun said he thought the race might be too ambitious, but Fish Trappe Road finished a solid second to Tom’s Ready, who also will contest the King’s Bishop. He then came out of that race and won the Dwyer.
“I thought it was an aggressive move,” Calhoun said of running in the Woody Stephens, “but it proved to be a good decision. The horses that were first and second on the pace ended up last and second-to-last, and we were the only one on the pace to stay up there. Then he got a perfect trip in the Dwyer and that put us here.
“Everybody asked us why we didn’t stretch out and go to the Jim Dandy – and we think he’ll be a good two-turn horse – but these are big purses, big races, and he’s doing well. There will come a time we’ll stretch him back out.”
Tom’s Ready flashed talent through the Kentucky Derby prep races in Louisiana, finishing second in the LeComte and second to Travers entrant Gun Runner in the Louisiana Derby despite a series of frustratingly troubled trips. But after finishing 12th in the Run for the Roses, trainer Dallas Stewart cut his runner back in distance and watched him swoop in from last in a field of 12 to run away with the Woody Stephens at seven furlongs.
“After the Derby, we were like, ‘This horse doesn’t want to run that far. He’s not going to be effective,'” Stewart said. “I thought he would be solid in the [Woody Stephens], but I didn’t think he would be that far back. When you’re last, a lot of times you stay last, but he came running. He’s a tough horse. He came back in [five] weeks [after the Derby] and scored. Maybe we found something he likes.”
Also in the field are Rated R Superstar, coming off a victory over multiple graded-stakes-winning sprinter Awesome Banner in the Grade 3 Carry Back last month at Gulfstream Park; Star Hill, third in the Woody Stephens and then third in the Indiana Derby in his two most recent starts; Summer Revolution, who has won his only two starts by a combined 10 ¼ lengths with a race-high top Beyer Speed Figure of 105; two-time graded-stakes-placed Canadian-based sprinter Noholdingback Bear; allowance winner Bird Song, who is a son of Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town; and Dwyer third-place finisher Tale of S’avall.