Historically, horsemen have made every effort to avoid their biggest rivals in Kentucky Derby prep races. Whether it was superstition or just a good tactical decision you’d seldom see the top Kentucky Derby contenders go head to head before the first Saturday in May. That’s starting to chance and this weekend two of the top contenders for the 2016 Kentucky Derby will collide in Florida.
On the collision course in the Florida Derby are Kiaran McLaughlin’s Mohaymen and Doug O’Neill’s Nyquist. Both horses are undefeated though Mohaymen has been considered the presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite for most of the year. The perception is that he’s faced a better class of horses (debatable) and he’s definitely the darling of the horse racing media. At the Wynn Las Vegas, Mohaymen is currently the 7/2 Kentucky Derby futures betting favorite with Nyquist at 11/1. Nyquist is currently #12 in the qualification points standings with 30 points.
McLaughlin is hoping to bounce back from a very disappointing trip to Dubai where his horse Frosted finished fifth in the Dubai World Cup. While you can make a compelling case that none of the other horses in the field were going to run down California Chrome on that day Frosted looked very strong in his prep race and was expected to be a contender. Instead, he was a disappointment for the trainer: “He ran farther than everybody. Just disappointed. He run a huge race in the prep, maybe a difference in competition was the main thing. He didn’t seem to have that finishing kick like he had.” Frosted came out of the World Cup in good shape and should be back in action soon–most likely in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in June or the Suburban at Belmont Park in July.
With that in the past, McLaughin is looking forward to the Florida Derby and the challenge of Nyquist: “When you have undefeated horses how much more is in the tank? Where and how do you find out? Well, we’re going to find out on Saturday how much is in the tank for both of them because they’re two damn nice horses.”