Mohaymen, Nyquist Set to Square Off in Advance of Kentucky Derby

Gulfstream Park offers its final and most prestigious (and lucrative) Kentucky Derby prep, the $1 million Florida Derby, this Saturday and it drew a star-studded field of 10. The race is worth 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby standings to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.

The two colts on top of most people’s Kentucky Derby rankings, #9 MOHAYMEN (even-money, favorite) and #4 NYQUIST (6-5, second-choice), will square off and one of them will be dealt their first career loss. NYQUIST has raced primarily in California under the care of Doug O’Neill, but there is a $1 million bonus at stake for NYQUIST if he wins this race because he was sold at a Fasig-Tipton sale in Florida. He has just one start under his belt this year, a much-the-best win in the San Vicente Stakes (which wasn’t worth any Derby points). MOHAYMEN, trained by world-class conditioner Kiaran McLaughlin, has won the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth Stakes over this course this year, assuring a starting spot in the gate at Churchill Downs in May.

MOHAYMEN has already gone 1 & 1/8th miles, winning a strong rendition of the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct at age two, while the furthest NYQUIST has been is 1 & 1/16th miles, when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It’s worth noting that the Florida Derby will be NYQUIST’s first route race of the year.

Because this is MOHAYMEN’s home track, and because I believe he is better suited to handling this distance, he is my pick. However, just betting MOHAYMEN to win or a MOHAYMEN/NYQUIST exacta won’t yield much of a profit, so I think trifectas are the way to go. Taking a look at the other eight horses in the field, #3 MAJESTO stands out as an option for third. It took him five tries to break his maiden but when he did so last time out it was a visually impressive effort, as he went five-wide on the far turn yet managed to pull away with authority. He’s already shown that he likes going long, and it’s very encouraging that top jockey Javier Castellano is staying aboard. His last work, going five furlongs in 1:01 and 3/5ths, was faster than usual for MAJESTO, a strong indication that he’s ready to fire his best shot on Saturday.

#2 FELLOWSHIP, who finished a non-threatening third behind MOHAYMEN in two straight tries, is also a logical player underneath.

#10 ISOFASS has trained well since his last start in February, where he was a decent third at this distance. He also gets the benefit of first-time Lasix here.

The play: $8 trifecta 9/4/3, $4 trifecta 9/4/2,10, $4 trifecta 9/3/4 ($20)

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