HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA. >> Mohaymen will go into Saturday's Florida Derby showdown against fellow unbeaten Nyquist as a slight favorite, at least in the morning line.
Mohaymen snared the No. 9 post in Wednesday's draw for the Grade 1, $1 million race at Gulfstream Park and was listed as the even-money favorite. Nyquist will start from the No. 4 spot and is the second choice at 6-5 in the 10-horse race, a rare pre-Kentucky Derby showdown between the colts widely considered to be the top contenders in this year's Triple Crown class.
"I think it's so cool," Nyquist trainer Doug O'Neill said. "Not only our two horses, Mohaymen and Nyquist, but you've got some other nice horses in the field as well. I think it's great for the sport. It's getting a lot of publicity and hopefully some new fans will arrive and enjoy it and all the horses will put on a great show."
Mohaymen is 5-0 so far in his career, four of those being wins in Grade 2 races and the last two of those coming at Gulfstream. Nyquist shipped in from California on Tuesday, ready to put his 6-0 record - three of them being Grade 1 victories, including last year's Breeders' Cup juvenile - on the line largely because a $1 million bonus would go to his connections with a victory.
The bonus money comes from Fasig-Tipton, which said it would pay it out to any graduate of its Gulfstream sales that came back to win the Florida Derby over that track. Nyquist falls into that category, Mohaymen does not.
It's no surprise that the field essentially shapes up as Mohaymen, Nyquist and everyone else. Fellowship was the third choice for the race over 1 1-8 miles, and that's only at 15-1.
"We're pleased to be outside of Nyquist," Mohaymen trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We just wanted to be outside of him, for one, and two, hopefully we'll stay out of trouble being outside a little bit."
There's some star power as well of the non-equine variety: Isofass is owned by longtime U.S. Olympic skiing star Bode Miller. And there's one other unbeaten in the race, that being Takeittotheedge - who's all of 1-0, having broken his maiden at Gulfstream on March 5 by nearly eight lengths in a seven-furlong romp.
But it shapes up very much as a two-horse race. One of the entrants has never won, with Sawyers Mickey 0-for-7 so far in his career.
"At least we're in the gate," Sawyers Mickey trainer Peter Walder said. "Just glad to be in."
There's two very good reasons why eight challengers are willing to face Mohaymen and Nyquist, those being Kentucky Derby points and purse money. It's $600,000 to the winner and $200,000 to second - but even the third-place horse gets $100,000, which would more than double the career earnings of seven horses in the field.
Mohaymen has 70 points and Nyquist has 30 so far in the points system that decides who gets into the field at Churchill Downs on May 7, so they have nothing to worry about - since that system has been in place, about 20 points has been the minimum to decide who gets in and who does not. The Florida Derby offers 100 points for first, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth, so it's conceivable that the third-place finisher Saturday gets a shot at Kentucky.
"We'll see if he's good enough to hang on," Takeittotheedge trainer Dale Romans said. "Get a check, get some points."
Combined, Mohaymen and Nyquist are 11-0 with $2,538,950 in purses.
The rest of the Florida Derby field: eight wins in 50 starts, with $722,932 in purses. Most of that comes from Fellowship, who has two wins in 10 starts with $468,340 in earnings after running third in each of Mohaymen's last two starts at Gulfstream - the Holy Bull and the Fountain of Youth.
The field, from the rail out with trainer and jockey in parentheses, followed by odds:
No. 1, Sawyers Mickey (Peter Walder, Scott Spieth), 30-1
No. 2, Fellowship (Stanley Gold, Jose Lezcano), 15-1
No. 3, Majesto (Gustavo Delgado, Javier Castellano), 20-1
No. 4, Nyquist (Doug O'Neill, Mario Gutierrez), 6-5
No. 5, Copingaway (Jaime Meija, Miguel Vasquez), 50-1
No. 6, Chovanes (Jorge Navarro, Edgard Zayas), 30-1
No. 7, Takeittotheedge (Dale Romans, Tyler Gaffalione), 20-1
No. 8, Fashionable Freddy (Nick Zito, Nik Juarez), 30-1
No. 9, Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado), 1-1
No. 10, Isofass (Francis Abbott III, Julien Leparoux), 30-1