Is Mohaymen the Real Deal?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

On Saturday, the most important Kentucky Derby prep race so far in 2016 will be held at Gulfstream Park, that being the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III). The 8.5-furlong race serves as the first of three major prep races at Gulfstream Park, and in recent years, the race has drawn such standout early Derby favorites as Upstart, Frosted, Cairo Prince, Itsmyluckyday, Shanghai Bobby, Hansen, and Dialed In. This year's Holy Bull is no exception, for the heavy favorite is Mohaymen, an undefeated two-time graded stakes winner that could establish himself as a clear-cut Derby favorite with a win in the Holy Bull. Let's take a look at the entries!

#HorseJockeyTrainerLast race
1Perfect SaintCorey LanerieDale Romans8th Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)
2MohaymenJunior AlvaradoKiaran McLaughlin1st Remsen Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO)
3FellowshipJ. CaraballoStanley Gold5th Mucho Macho Man Stakes (VIDEO)
4Conquest Big EMike SmithMark Casse1st Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)
5GreenpointcrusaderJohn VelazquezDominick Schettino7th Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) (VIDEO)
6Frontier RangerEdgar ZayasRonald Pellegrini3rd Allowance Optional Claiming (VIDEO)

As Mohaymen prepares for his 2016 debut, the question that many are asking is simple: Is Mohaymen the real deal? Can he become the first Holy Bull runner to win the Kentucky Derby since Barbaro in 2006?

So far, all has gone well, and Mohaymen has stamped himself as a colt of exceptional quality. In his debut on September 19th at Belmont Park, he got involved in a stiff battle for the lead with Seymourdini, but gamely prevailed by a half-length in the sharp time of 1:10.16 for six furlongs. Seymourdini has since come back to win impressively, and the third-place finisher-King Kranz-is a stakes winner that will run in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) on Saturday.

Mohaymen's second start came in the one-mile Nashua Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct, and after acting up at the gate before the race, he showed a new dimension settling near the back of the pack before rallying on the outside to win by 1 ¾ lengths over Flexibility. Most recently, in the November 28th Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct, Mohaymen ran his best race to date, saving ground and getting dirt kicked in his face before splitting horses in the homestretch to take command and win by 1 ½ lengths over Flexibility.

For his efforts, Mohaymen has received increasing Beyer speed figures of 87, 89, and 95, and the strength of the Remsen Stakes was confirmed when Flexibility came back to win the Jerome Stakes (gr. III) with ease. In a race that seems almost completely lacking in early speed, Mohaymen-by virtue of his front-running maiden win-might very well find himself on the lead in the Holy Bull. Given the way that Gulfstream Park tends to favor speed, this could be a major advantage, and as a result, it's difficult to envision a scenario in which Mohaymen loses this race. Although he will be a short price, he is my selection to win.

Assuming Mohaymen wins, the battle for second place should be between Greenpointcrusader and Conquest Big E, and I'll give a slight edge to the latter. Trained by Mark Casse, Conquest Big E has shown good tactical speed throughout his career, particularly when winning a one-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs last time out. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Conquest Big E got a very tricky trip racing in between horses and was never able to settle into a good position, so under the circumstances, his eighth-place finish-beaten just 4 ¾ lengths-wasn't as bad as it first appears. It's true that both of his victories have come on sloppy, sealed tracks, but he did finish second to Brody's Cause in a one-mile maiden race at Churchill over a dry track after hopping at the start and being rank early on. My feeling is that we haven't seen Conquest Big E's best yet, and the fact that Mike Smith is flying in to ride Conquest Big E is a positive sign. Starting from post position four, Conquest Big E should be able to work out a great trip stalking Mohaymen early on, putting him in the position to steal the spotlight should Mohaymen falter in the homestretch.

As for Greenpointcrusader, he unleashes an impressive finish to win his second start at Saratoga last summer by a neck, then relished the sloppy conditions in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) to rally from sixth and win by a dominating 4 ½ lengths, good for a Beyer speed figure of 94. The runner-up, Sunny Ridge, came back to finish second by a nose in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (gr. III), and while Greenpointcrusader didn't bring his best race in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile-he finished seventh by 4 ¼ lengths-he also endured a bad trip racing in between horses and rallying wide in the homestretch, so I think his performance can be forgiven.

Still, it's worth noting that Greenpointcrusader is a half-brother to Algorithms and Justin Phillip, two colts that absolutely loved sloppy tracks, so Greenpointcrusader still has to prove that he can replicate his Champagne performance over a dry track. Additionally, as a closer in a race without much pace, he might be at a slight disadvantage chasing Mohaymen and Conquest Big E early on, making it harder for him to rally in the homestretch. Finally, as a grade I winner, he will be carrying the top weight of 122 pounds, two more than Mohaymen and six more than Conquest Big E. For these reasons, I think Greenpointcrusader looks more likely to finish third than second this Saturday, although down the road-in races with a different pace scenario and different weight assignments-I think he could turn the tables.

I'd also like to briefly mention Fellowship, who finished second in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream before running fifth in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes. In the latter race, he never really had a chance while trying to close from off the pace while racing wide, but he did make a big move in the second quarter to reach striking range before tiring. A return to two turns for the Holy Bull could help his chances, and if the pace is slow, he has shown enough tactical speed to suggest that he could settle fairly close to the early lead. He is my choice to round out the superfecta.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Holy Bull Stakes?


To help simplify the process of choosing and keeping track of everyone's prime horse selections in our 2016 Road to the Kentucky Derby Handicapping Challenge, I would like to ask everyone to please submit their prime choice each week by leaving a special comment on the official blog page for the contest. This will greatly reduce the chances of any prime horse selections getting overlooked, and will also make it simpler to double-check the standings. Thanks, and enjoy the racing!


J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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