LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Mohaymen went from likely Kentucky Derby favorite to a question mark in the span of less than two minutes.
Things change that quickly when you suffer a crushing defeat.
Mohaymen seemed destined for greater glory heading into the Florida Derby in early April at Gulfstream Park. The gray colt was an impressive 5 for 5 coming in, earning the backing of the public as the 4-5 favorite in the key prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Then he ran a clunker, finishing fourth — a distant 8¼ lengths behind Nyquist.
Now it is Nyquist (7 for 7) who commands the stage as the probable Derby favorite on Saturday.
The loss hasn’t discouraged Kiaran McLaughlin, Mohaymen’s trainer, even if others have lost faith.
“I understand that, as far as handicapping goes,” McLaughlin said Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs. “We still have confidence in him. He only had a bad minute, 49 seconds in his whole life.”
In reviewing the Florida Derby, McLaughlin listed a number of factors that contributed to the defeat: a very short run to the first turn, a wet track, that Mohaymen had shipped from the Palm Meadows training center to Gulfstream Park on the day of the race.
McLaughlin sees nothing but positives heading into the 142nd Kentucky Derby.
The run to the turn is longer at Churchill Downs, there is no rain in the weekend forecast and Mohaymen will not have to travel to race.
“We feel like he will rebound and run his ‘A’ race,” McLaughlin said to a handful of reporters. “It was a funny day. The track was funny, and the trip was funny.
“I get it. Had we won that day, people would be lined up at our barn instead of Doug O’Neill’s barn.”
O’Neill, Nyquist’s trainer, is located just around the corner from McLaughlin and Mohaymen.
McLaughlin is most pleased to have a healthy horse for the rematch.
“I lost a little confidence after the race,” he said. “Now that he’s happy and sound and has good energy, I have a lot of confidence again. I feel like we’re going to run a big race.”
Mohaymen, a son of Tapit, was a $2.2 million yearling purchase by Shadwell Stable in fall 2014.
After winning his debut at Belmont Park last September, Mohaymen captured the Nashua and the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct to finish his juvenile season with three wins.
He won the Holy Bull Stakes and the Fountain of Youth, both at Gulfstream, before the Florida Derby.
Junior Alvarado, the jockey in all six previous races, will again ride Mohaymen.