2016 Florida Derby Preview, Picks and Analysis
Nyquist rates slight edge at square price in Florida Derby
2016 Florida Derby-G1, Race 14, Gulfstream Park, Saturday, April 2, 2016
3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8-miles, Dirt, Purse: $1 million
Florida Derby Predictions
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Florida Derby Analysis
One of the most anticipated battles of the year will take place in the Florida Derby-G1 at Gulfstream Park on Saturday when undefeated Kentucky Derby favorites Mohaymen and Nyquist meet for the first time.
Mohaymen is the even-money favorite on the morning line and Nyquist is listed at 6/5. It’s almost impossible to separate these two rivals on form, class and heart and they certainly tower over their eight rivals in the 69th running of the Florida Derby.
Mohaymen is 5-for-5 and probably has a slight fitness advantage over Nyquist. He also has home court advantage. As a 2-year-old, Mohaymen won the one-mile Nashua Stakes-G2 at Aqueduct and followed that win with a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen-G2 on November 28, 2015, also at Aqueduct. He made his first start of 2016 in the Holy Bull Stakes-G2 going 1 1/16-miles at Gulfstream Park on January 30 and sat just off a slow pace before galloping away to win with something left by 3 1/2-lengths. In his next start in the Fountain of Youth Stakes-G2 on February 27, also at the same distance at Gulfstream Park, Mohaymen steadied mildly while wide into the first turn, remained wide while stalking a decent pace, challenged the leader late on the final turn and dueled briefly before drawing out to win by 2 1/4-lengths for his fifth straight victory.
Mohaymen wasn’t quite as impressive in the Fountain of Youth as he was in the Holy Bull, but he did what he had to do to get the job done. Maybe he bounced a little in the Fountain of Youth and is ready to come back with a big race, but we’re not so sure. Trained by the capable Kiaran McLaughlin, Mohaymen will be ridden by regular rider Junior Alvarado, and the Florida Derby will likely set up perfectly for him as long as he avoids getting himself into trouble, which he should be able to do from his outside post.
Mohaymen has won at three different tracks on the east coast, while arch rival Nyquist has won at three different tracks on the west coast as well as in Kentucky, the latter state being the scene of his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 victory off a wide trip. Prior to his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win Nyquist had won the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal Stakes-G2 and the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity-G1, both at Del Mar, and the Frontrunner Stakes-G1 at Santa Anita going 1 1/16-miles. In all of those races he pressed or forced the pace while rating and in both the Frontrunner Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile he showed good courage in the drive to secure the win. Nyquist made his first start of 2016 off a 3 1/2-month layoff in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes-G2 at Santa Anita and again forced the pace while rating before drawing away to win by 1 1/2-lengths under regular rider Mario Gutierrez.
Nyquist is now a perfect 6-for-6 for trainer Doug O’Neill, who won the 2012 Kentucky Derby for Nyquist’s owner Paul Reddam with I’ll Have Another in 2012, also with Mario Gutierrez up. Reddam stands to win a $1 million bonus if Nyquist can win the 2016 Florida Derby, which is the primary reason their team chose this race as their major Kentucky Derby prep. Only one true California shipper has ever won the Florida Derby. Snow Chief accomplished the feat in 1986.
We’ll give O’Neill a slight edge in the trainer department off his Kentucky victory, and we’ll also give Nyquist a slight edge in the jockey department with Gutierrez. We’ll call Nyquist and Mohaymen even with regards to stamina in their pedigrees as they both attempt 1 1/8-miles for the first time, and the heart factor also comes up even. Both have shown excellent courage. A slight fitness edge goes to Mohaymen for his two recent races at 1 1/16-miles versus Nyquist’s single seven-furlong prep.
While both horses have enough class to take the lead by themselves in the Florida Derby on any horse but each other, we have to think they will retain their usual running styles. Mohaymen likes to sit behind the speed and pounce and Nyquist likes to be close to the pace. Mohaymen could conceivably try to shoot to the lead from his outside post but he would have to reverse his running style to do so, and although Nyquist likes to force the pace while rating, he also proved he could rate and rally in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Based on the above, we see Nyquist forcing the pace while rating and shaking his two or three outclassed pace rivals somewhere on or before the final turn. If he can open up and get a breather in late turn or early stretch, he should have just enough left to hold off the challenge from Mohaymen if that rival performs as he did in the Fountain of Youth, which we think was just slightly below his best.
Nyquist owns the only triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in the Florida Derby field with his 101 in the San Vicente Stakes-G2, while Mohaymen is close on numbers with three 95 Beyer Speed Figures in a row along with a slight running style edge.
We’re going to take a shot that Nyquist is the better horse and bet him to win at what should be a square price of 6/5 or better. We’ll use Nyquist on top of Mohaymen in our Florida Derby exactors, and for the show spot in our Florida Derby trifectas we’ll take Fellowship on our biggest ticket. We’ll also use Majesto, Fashionable Freddy, Takeittothedge and Isofass in the show spot on some small Trifecta saver tickets and use those four in the third and fourth spots on our Florida Derby superfecta tickets.
Fellowship has already run third to Mohaymen twice, Majesto has Gulfstream Park’s leading rider Javier Castellano in the irons, Isofass gets first time Lasix, Takeittotheedge ran a big but possibly inflated number in his last, and Fashionable Freddy fits on the trainer Nick Zito longshot angle.
Regardless of who wins, this should be one of the most exciting Kentucky Derby preps we’ve seen in a long, long time! Good Luck!