It’s no secret that the 2016 Florida Derby is the most anticipated race of the entire season so far. The marquee race of Gulfstream Park will feature the two Kentucky Derby favorites in a meeting that was happenstance more than anything. The coincidental clash is a solid preview for what’s to come in the Triple Crown and horse bettors across the country would be wise to keep their ears close to the rails in this one.
In a perfect world for the sake of promotion, Mohaymen and Nyquist wouldn’t meet until the Kentucky Derby on May 7th. But each of their trainers had targeted the 2016 Florida Derby as their final prep race of the preseason well before either started down the trail. After Mohaymen’s pair of victories earlier this year, and Nyquist’s scorching sprint at the San Vicente Stakes, neither of the horses’ trainers wanted to veer off course.
Kiaran McLaughlin has guided Mohyamen through his special and busy journey. The three-year old son of Tapit has already run in four races since the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships (which he did not compete in), and the 2016 Florida Derby will be his fifth and final run before focusing on the ultimate task at hand.
“We’re ready to go. We wouldn’t change anything,” McLaughlin said in a call from Dubai, where he recently oversaw some of his other trainees compete at Meydan Racecourse. “We’ll just see how we draw and who enters.”
It’s been a much less involved season for Nyquist, who won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and has only competed once since. He flattened the San Vicente, but the 7-furlong challenge did little to invigorate the horse playing community. Mohaymen has surged ahead of Nyquist as the preference for the Kentucky Derby. So this is an opportunity for Nyquist to prove what he’s worth. O’Neill wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but like most races, we feel like we can win,” O’Neill stated. “I’m sure the Mohaymen people feel that they can win, and the Zulu people feel that they can win, and there will be a few others. So it’s going to be a great race and hopefully everyone stays injury-free. I can’t wait for April 2. We’re real excited.”