Sometime shortly before 7:00pm on Saturday evening, we will likely have a favorite for this year's Kentucky Derby. That's what's at stake in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. This event has to rank as one of the biggest and best showdowns as far as Kentucky Derby prep races go in decades as Nyquist and Mohaymen are set to square off.
Both colts are undefeated. Both are generally considered to be the top two players heading to the First Saturday in May. This clash is truly historic as you just don't get this caliber of runners hooking up on the road to Churchill Downs.
Think back on some of the great Triple Crown rivalries. While they competed against each other at age 2, Alydar and Affirmed didn't meet at 3 until the Kentucky Derby. In 1989, that sensational duo of Sunday Silence and Easy Goer didn't see each other until the Run for the Roses. It's so rare to see such a high-stakes matchup on the Derby trail, yet here we are. Nyquist, the reigning 2-year-old champ, travelling cross country to face maybe a monster-in-the making in Mohaymen.
Both camps are very, very confident. Yeah, I know that one million dollar bonus available to Nyquist has a lot to do with this meeting, but hey, his trainer, Doug O'Neill still has to have tremendous faith in Nyquist's ability. After all, they have to tangle with Mohaymen in that colt's backyard. This winter, Mohaymen has toyed with his opposition. His trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, usually low-key, has been bubbly. If you heard his post-race comments, you know he believes he trains a special one. He'll almost certainly need to be special to top Nyquist, whose is coming off a smashing 3-year-old debut race himself. With his inside post, Nyquist could have a built-in advantage as he'll likely get to the front with his early turn of foot. Mohaymen will probably stalk Nyquist...and hope to pounce as they reach the far turn.
So somethin' gotta give. Let's hope the Florida Derby outcome keeps the hype machine humming right up to the First Saturday in May.
While we're at it... for what it's worth here's my latest Fab Five:
4. Mor Spirit
5. Gun Runner