Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park is a final major prep in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers, and the 1 1/8-mile race features an unprecedented match-up between unbeaten and top-ranked contenders on both coasts, Mohaymen and Nyquist.
It could easily determine favoritism in May 7 Kentucky Derby.
Nyquist, the 2-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner, brings a 6-for-6 mark into the Florida Derby for Doug O’Neill and will have the services of regular rider Mario Gutierrez, the jockey aboard the O-Neill-trained 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another.
The Uncle Mo has shipped from his Santa Anita base in attempt to capture the $1-million Fasig-Tipton Florida sales bonus and brings high speed to the equation, racing on the front end in five of his six wins. With little other pace in the 10-horse field, Nyquist will attempt to parlay a tactical advantage into Florida Derby glory.
Mohaymen has the home-court advantage, extending his record to 5-for-5 with easy victories in the Holy Bull (G2) and Fountain of Youth (G2) earlier this year at Gulfstream, and looms as a serious threat to run down his main rival. The gray Tapit colt is conditioned by Kiaran McLaughlin, who finished second in the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Closing Argument, and Junior Alvarado retains the mount.
Fellowship is the only other contestant with class lines to boast, rallying for third in the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, and the Stanley Gold-trained colt will be running late with jockey Jose Lezcano.
Last-out maiden winners Majesto and Takeittotheedge are facing a steep class hike but can’t be eliminated from consideration for a small share.
Mohaymen photo courtesy of Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography
Nyquist photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography