Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen put away Zulu in upper stretch and drew off to a 2 ¼-length decision in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, remaining unbeaten and satisfying his many supporters as the 2-5 favorite. With the 50-point prize, the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt jumped to the top of the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with a total of 71 points.
The Fountain of Youth sets the stage for a titanic match-up in the April 2 Florida Derby (G1) between Mohaymen and champion 2-year-old Nyquist, the leading Kentucky Derby contenders on the East and West Coast. At least one of the undefeated stars will sustain their first defeat, barring a dead-heat for the win.
“You can see he’s not even blowing when he’s coming back. He just does things different. He’s a special colt,” McLaughlin said. “It’s more nerve-wracking each race because we’re 4-for-4 going into today and you just hope everything goes well. He’s obviously a very talented colt. We just hope we don’t have any mishaps in a race like a horse bumping into him or something like that.”
Mohaymen is now 5-for-5, increasing his earnings to $805,350, and Junior Alvarado has been up every time. A debut winner at Belmont Park in mid-September, the son of Tapit concluded his juvenile campaign with facile wins in the Nashua (G2) and Remsen (G2) on the main track at Aqueduct.
He returned this year with a 3 ½-length romp in the January 30 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream.
Awesome Banner sprinted to the fore as expected at the break of the Fountain of Youth, crossing over from post 5 to show the way into the clubhouse turn. Golden Ray proved to be an unruly 131-1 longshot, causing a mini-chain reaction as he bumped into Awesome Speed, and Alvarado edged Mohaymen back to avoid congestion, traveling a wide fifth around the first bend.
Zulu tracked about a length back of Awesome Banner through opening splits of :23.52 and :47.07 before accelerating to take the lead entering the far turn. Mohaymen advanced to third down the backstretch and edged closer to Zulu as Awesome Banner checked out of the action.
A half-length back after three-quarters in 1:11.02, Mohaymen drew even with Zulu nearing the conclusion of the far turn. The duo turned for home together but Mohaymen was clearly going better on the outside, spurting away to a clear lead in midstretch.
The gray colt won going away under the finish line in the short stretch, stopping the teletimer in 1:42.48.
“I had to ask him a little more today because I let him run a little more from the half-mile pole,” Alvarado said. “Turning for home when he’s switching leads I cannot check him, but maybe one or two times with the reins to let him know that he still needs to finish for me. He gave it to me right away.
“After that I geared him down, I didn’t want him to do that much. (Zulu and jockey John Velazquez) tried to engage me a little bit, but it’s horse racing — I’ve got the best horse today and he makes my job very easy. It doesn’t get much more exciting.”
Zulu, who brought a 2-for-2 mark into his stakes and two-turn debut, easily held second in a commendable showing, four lengths better than the late-running Fellowship in third. Awesome Speed came next and was followed by Awesome Banner and Golden Ray.
Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Mohaymen cost a whopping $2.2 million as the co-highest price at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. He’s out of the multiple Grade 2-winning Justwhistledixie, a daughter of Dixie Union, and Mohaymen counts 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner New Year’s Day as a half-brother.
Rick Nichols, Shadwell’s U.S. Racing manager, is enjoying the ride with the outstanding performer.
“It’s fantastic,” Nichols said. “It looks like he did it very easy. Junior said he was pulling him all along and kept him a little in check. He didn’t want to use him a lot in the end because we still have a long way ahead.”
Mohaymen all alone in Fountain of Youth stretch courtesy of Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography
Mohaymen drawing away from Zulu courtesy of Adam Coglianese
Mohaymen receiving a hug from Rick Nichols courtesy of Lauren King/Adam Coglianese