Another Kentucky Derby prep race is in the books with the running of the Rebel Stakes on Saturday and the field for the 2016 ‘Run For The Roses’ is starting to take shape. For the time being at least, Kiraen McLaughlin’s Mohaymen is head and shoulders above the rest of the field. That could change dramatically between now and the first Sunday in May, however, and the big 100 point max Derby prep races like the Santa Anita Derby have yet to be run.
So how good is Mohaymen? He’s obviously very good–five wins in five career races including four Grade 2 stakes victories is no joke. That being said, you should be somewhat leery of any horse that is anointed the darling of the racing press so early in the year. Dortmund was the ‘racing press darling’ last year–they hyped him up throughout the prep campaign to the detriment of objectivity. He was a good three year old no doubt but the problem is that the press likes to explain away the liabilities of their ‘darling’ and harp on the shortcomings of other contenders. Last year, there was a horse that the racing press said was ‘ordinary’ and ‘not of Derby winning class’. Heading into the Kentucky Derby they said that he had ‘never faced adversity’ and ‘never been tested’. They advised against backing him even as the vox populi started to swell in his support. That horse was American Pharoah who, lest we forget, won the Kentucky Derby and went on to complete the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
Mohaymen runs next in the Santa Anita Derby which was the race that convinced people that California Chrome was the ‘real deal’ back in 2014. It was impossible to watch Chrome lay waste to that field and not realize he was something special. But many in the racing press were unconvinced, pointing to his now famous ‘questionable pedigree’ and his dubious quality digs at Los Alamitos. California Chrome remains the biggest rock star horse in the world and will next run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Chrome has made a ridiculous amount of money in his career. Fortunately, he ignored the racing press.