Unbeaten Champ Nyquist Dusts Mohaymen in Florida Derby

Racing

Nyquist rolled to a dominant victory in the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Owner J. Paul Reddam’s high-stakes gamble was richly rewarded when front-running Nyquist handed Mohaymen his first defeat in rolling to a commanding 3 ¼-length victory in the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Nyquist’s highly anticipated duel with Mohaymen never materialized. Fellowship took third while Mohaymen ran a non-threatening fourth in a field of 10. Fellowship rallied from last to third, a length behind Majesto, while Mohaymen ran a non-threatening fourth in a field of 10.

Reddam said afterward that Nyquist will stand at Darley once his racing career is over.

“Done deal,” Reddam said of his agreement with Darley.

Nyquist extended his perfect record to 7-for-7 for regular rider Mario Gutierrez with his second victory this season. He banked $600,000 of the $1 million purse. Beyond that, he received the $1 million bonus offered to any graduate of the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of selected 2-year-olds in training to win the Florida Derby.

“You can’t be afraid,” Reddam said of his willingness to leave the West Coast to tackle East Coast star Mohaymen at his home track. “If you are afraid in this business, you are not going anywhere.”

FLORIDA DERBY

Courtesy of Gulfstream Park

The windfall boosted the lifetime earnings of the 2-year-old champion to $3,333,600. Reddam purchased the Uncle Mo colt, bred by Summerhill Farm in Kentucky, for $400,000 as a 2-year-old in training.

Nyquist went off as the second choice to Mohaymen. He returned $4.40 for a $2 win wager. He completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.11 on a track that received several heavy downpours of rain but was still rated good.

The 14-race card featured eight stakes races and attracted a record handle of $32,082,270, bettering last year’s mark of $27,255,862.

Nyquist broke sharply and took the large but largely suspect field beyond Mohaymen through an opening quarter-mile of :23.60 and a half-mile in :47.09. He looked as strong as he did at the start in clicking off three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.39.

“He exceeded our expectations, for sure,” O’Neill said of Nyquist’s overwhelming performance.

The outcome provided an emphatic answer to those who questioned the strategy of Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill. Mohaymen had been a force on the East Coast with a 5-for-5 record that included rousing victories in two previous starts this year, both at Gulfstream.

“He’s got the mindset of a champion,” O’Neill said of Nyquist. “Now, it’s up to the whole crew and the racing gods to keep him injury free.”

Said jockey Junior Alvarado of Mohaymen’s disappointing performance: “I didn’t really have much excuse. I was where I wanted to be the whole race and he didn’t fire this time.”

Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Mohaymen, said of Nyquist: “He ran big. We were awfully wide throughout and with the track, you never know. We’ll regroup.”

NYQUIST PUT AWAY MOHAYMEN AT THE TOP OF THE STRETCH

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Nyquist brought his hard-hitting game with him, just as he had when he overcame a rough and wide trip to grind out a half-length victory in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. on Oct. 31.

Once Nyquist recovers from his second race this year — he earned a 1 ½-length victory against Exaggerator in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 15 at Santa Anita — he will be shipped to Keeneland to begin preparations in earnest for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Although Nyquist emerged victorious from his 1 1/8-mile showdown with Mohaymen, Shadwell Stable’s $2.2 million yearling, other questions will continue to linger.

As with every 3-year-old, he must demonstrate that he will be responsive enough to Gutierrez to handle the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles. His sire, Uncle Mo, never had the opportunity to provide an answer. He was scratched before the Kentucky Derby with an illness.

“I feel today was a step forward for the challenge of getting a mile and a quarter against a huge field,” said O’Neill, who teamed with Gutierrez and Reddam to sweep the Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another in 2012. Their hopes for a Triple Crown were dashed when I’ll Have Another was scratched on the eve of the Belmont Stakes with a career-ending injury.

Nyquist must overcome a significant body of history if he is to withstand the so-called “Juvenile Jinx.” Street Sense, the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, is the only Juvenile victor to prevail in the opening leg of the Triple Crown. The Juvenile was first run in 1984.

For an Equibase chart, click here. 

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