Mohaymen and Nyquist lead way to the Kentucky Derby
Not so far off in the future is the most-welcomed Kentucky Derby, a horse racing spectacle of both sight and sound . . . and most of all, the visual brilliance of thoroughbred horse flesh.
However, before the thoroughbreds get to Churchill Downs in Louisville they must negotiate a large number of prep races that get them to the almost-hallowed “First Saturday in May.”
Undefeated in his six lifetime starts is Nyquist, last year’s Two-Year-Old Horse of the Year. Nyquist was the winner of the Juvenile for two-year-olds at last year’s Breeders’ Cup. He has raced only once in 2016, winning the seven-furlong San Vincente Stakes in California.
Nyquist is fast becoming the face of West Coast racing.
An athletic brown colt with a lengthy stride that has his blackish mane flowing in the wind during his races, Nyquist is the son of Uncle Mo, a star himself on the 2010 Kentucky Derby trail. Uncle Mo is fast becoming a valued sire whose fee has risen to $75,000 per live foal.
Another unbeaten three-year-old is the gray standard bearer of Shadwell Stables, Mohaymen.
Regally bred, Mohaymen is the son of Tapit. In today’s racing circles, Tapit commands one of the highest stud fees of all the sires standing in America. It costs $300,000 to bring a filly or mare to the handsome Tapit, now fully white in color after racing as a gray youngster.
In just five lifetime starts, Mohaymen has earned $760,350. All his races have been contested east of the Mississippi River.
Wins in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park in Florida have given Mohaymen the look of a Kentucky Derby favorite. If Nyquist has become the face of West Coast racing then Mohaymen is going to be asked to uphold the dignity and quality of East Coast racing.
No thoroughbred entered in the Kentucky Derby will have run the classic distance of one mile-and-a-quarter, but the stretch-running Mohaymen has won his races with a come-from-behind verve that gives the impression the 10-furlong distance will not make him look like just another sprinter without the required endurance.
Both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth were one mile-and-one-sixteenth in distance.
Mohaymen has the coloring of a youthful Tapit, featuring a mostly gray head and the coming pale flashes along his sleek body and tail.
On April 2 at Gulfstream Park, Mohaymen will have a “home field” advantage of sorts when he is slated to see Nyquist firsthand in the one mile-and-one-eighth Florida Derby. Nyquist will fly in from California and trainer Doug O’Neil believes his path to the Kentucky Derby will include a win away from his more familiar surroundings.
Neither of the currently undefeated colts is scheduled to race again before seeing Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby on May 7. That would be five weeks between races for each of the two most-heralded horses in this crop of three-year-olds.
Eighteen more thoroughbreds will likely be entered in the Kentucky Derby again this year, and if Mohaymen and Nyquist are there another full field of 20 will begin the quest for the 2016 Triple Crown.
American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown champion since 1978 when he cut through the anxiety and enervating weeks that gave him victories last year in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
There were back-to-back Triple Crowns in 1977 and 1978 . . . could it happen again just a year after American Pharoah if either Nyquist or Mohaymen prove to be ultra-worthy sons of Uncle Mo and Tapit?