A Bump in the Road to Kentucky

 

by @MizPostParade

Nyquist and Mohaymen both entered the Florida Derby as undefeated and top contenders for the run for the roses.  The road to Kentucky for both Mohaymen and Nyquist has been a smooth, straight line into the gates on the first Saturday in May.  The Florida Derby was dripping with hype for the match-up between the two undefeated contenders for the Kentucky Derby.  But the road for Mohaymen got a little rough in Florida when he encountered a speed bump from the West Coast named Nyquist.  The undefeated son of Uncle Mo shipped into Gulfstream Park and embarrassed Mohaymen on his own track.  Nyquist ran with ease in his impeccable running style of head down and full throttle.  The hometown favorite, Mohaymen, ran flat.

Nyquist won the Florida Derby by nearly two lengths over Majesto, who was traveling well along the rail.  Mohaymen lugged in for fourth, nearly five lengths behind Nyquist.  In a regular race, with a regular horse, you would look at the past performance sheet and put a line through the horse’s worst race. Unfortunately, for Mohaymen, it’s not just a regular race and he’s not just a regular horse, but a top Derby contender and he just did not run well.  You can blame it on the weather, which went from complete downpours to sunshine in a blink of an eye, or the conditions of the track after the deluge of rain, or the alleged “bad trip” that Mohaymen had in this race going four-wide all the way, or the fact that for the first time he had a lot of mud kicked in his face.  But … fourth?  Mohaymen traditionally has a unique running style all of his own.  He starts slow out of the gate but hits full stride in the turn for home.  He just couldn’t get the traction for the burst of speed that he usually exhibits in the last few furlongs.

The West Coast is producing some of the best race horses in the business.  For the 2016 Kentucky Derby, Nyquist will be representing the hopes of Southern Californians for another Derby winner.  In the Florida Derby, on a less-then-perfect track, Nyquist was the only horse that galloped back without a speck of mud on him or the jockey’s silks.  Nyquist hit the front of the field of 10 and never looked back.  On the race track, this colt’s running style makes him look small, but only because he runs low.  Nyquist has the heart of a champion and the heart of a contender.   He may be small in running style but intimidating on the track.  If he sees his competitor getting close, he lunges for the wire.  Nyquist welcomes all challengers, and there will be plenty on the first Saturday in May.

A field of 20 enters the gates and sitting at the top of the list is a formidable foe for Nyquist by the name of Gun Runner.  He’s legit.

The Derby will be a good betting race with the two favorites in Nyquist and Mohaymen taking all the money and will have ridiculous odds that no respectable horseplayer would bet, but it’s the exotic wagers that will pay on Derby day.  Horses like Gun Runner, Zulu, Mor Spirit, Exaggerator and even the Florida Derby horses that finished between Nyquist and Mohaymen, Majesto and Fellowship, will be at huge prices.  Fellowship finished third in the Florida Derby.  He has raced with Mohaymen three times and all three races he finished third.

We are four weeks away from the Kentucky Derby.  Both Nyquist and Mohaymen are heading to Churchill Downs.  Nyquist will enter the gates as the undefeated colt, and the one to beat.

Huge Derby prep races are this weekend with the Santa Anita Derby, the Wood Memorial and the Blue Grass Stakes all on Saturday.  There are 100 points on the line for the winner of all three of the prep races this weekend. (Canterbury’s Road to Kentucky Contest will use all 12 Santa Anita races plus the Blue Grass and Wood Memorial as additional bonus races).

The Todd Pletcher- trainee, Zulu, is sitting at Number 20 on the list, and finds himself in a desperate situation for points.  If he wants to get in the Derby, it’s a “must-win” in the Blue Grass for Zulu. He’ll be contending with Uncle Mo offspring, Laoban, who is also looking for points.

We’ll see Shagaf, Outwork and Flexibility in the Wood Memorial.  The 100 points would put the winner of the Wood in the Top 20.   Mor Spirit, Danzing Candy and Exaggerator lock up in the Santa Anita Derby.

The time has come to start preparing for the Kentucky Derby wagers and winning tickets so here’s a list of the Top 20 after the Florida Derby, but the order will change after the three prep races this weekend.

Top 20 Derby Points Leaders :

Gun Runner

Nyquist

Lani

Mohaymen

Destin

Cupid

Oscar Nominated

Danzing Candy

Shagaf

Mor Spirit

Tom’s Ready

Majesto

Mo Tom

Fellowship

Exaggerator

Whitmore

Laoban

Azar

Dazzling Gem

Zulu

Big Numbers in Week 12 of Road to Kentucky Contest

Nyquist

“You can’t take short prices.  It’s the road to nowhere.” – Brent Sumja, former trainer and NHC Tour winner, talking about contest strategy on a recent DRF Players Podcast.

It was another marathon week for the Road to Kentucky contest, as Gulfstream Park put on a 14-race card which included the Florida Derby showdown between Mohaymen and Nyquist.  There was also the added bonus race of the Spiral Stakes from Turfway Park, all of which I was trying to follow from the ballroom of the Orleans Hotel Casino, host of the 2016 Horse Player World Series.

As strong as the racing was at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, the top finishers in the contest this week will have had to be correct on the winner of the Spiral Stakes, the #5 Oscar Nominated.  He was one of four horses entered by trainer Michael Maker, and ended up winning it as the shortest price of the four which was still 23-1.  That horse alone was worth 1,564 points due to the double bonus, and with a maximum score on the day of 4,260 the Spiral winner is a must if you are looking at cracking the top five for the week.

The weather didn’t cooperate at Gulfstream Park as rain hit the track early, resulting in a sloppy surface.  It didn’t seem to bother Nyquist as he won the Florida Derby pretty easily, disposing of Mohaymen at the top of the stretch and winning over Majesto and Fellowship by open lengths as Mohaymen ran fourth.  So Nyquist will head to Kentucky as the undefeated Juvenile Champion, and a lot of sharp players will continue to knock him as being distance challenged and be looking to play against him with both fists, which is the essence and the beauty of this game.

I had a very good week this week in the contest, scoring 2,352 points.  I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I otherwise might have because I was concentrating on six other tracks in the Horse Player World Series meat grinder.  I blanked in the first six contest races, but started picking up points in the second half of the Gulfstream card, and then connected with Oscar Nominated in the Spiral Stakes.  (Unfortunately, Turfway Park was not part of the Horseplayer World Series track slate).  Rumors from the peanut gallery are that there may be a score out there exceeding 3,000 points this week, which would be quite remarkable.  If you had the Spiral winner and also got about 60% of the available points at Gulfstream, I tip my cap to you!  I’m hopeful for a top-5 finish, this was certainly my best week so far this year.

As for the Horse Player World Series tournament, it was an absolute blast.  Thursday was a very chalky day and I only picked up a couple of second place horses for a score of 284, which was 310th out of 600 players.  The second day I was a little better with two 9-1 winners for a score of 588 on the day and 283rd place overall.  Saturday I got on a little run with a 9-1 winner at Gulfstream early, and another 9-1 winner at Laurel with my 10th play.  At that point I was about 400 points out of the top 60, which was the cutoff for getting paid, with five plays remaining.  After a couple misses, I connected with a 14-1 winner at Oaklawn Park in their last race.  High fives all around!  Check that, there was a long objection into some bumping near the wire and the stewards ultimately disqualified my horse to 5th.  Yikes!  I know that was a pretty damaging decision to a lot of people in the room, as well as others who may have bet the race.  There’s no way to know if that winner would have put me in the money or not since the cut line would have gone up quite a bit, but I figure I would have finished between 50-70th instead of 133rd.  Players finishing between 41-60th received $1,200.  With two plays left I ran 2nd with a 15-1 shot at Hawthorne and swung and missed with a big longshot at Santa Anita.  It was still a great time and I recommend it to anyone thinking about giving it a try.  You can buy your way in for $1,500, or you can try to qualify through various contests including those offered at Canterbury Park.  The winner of the Horse Player World Series this year was Daniel Kaplan with a score of 3,189.60.  He won over 300K for his victory!

This Saturday the Road to Kentucky contest continues at Santa Anita for the featured Santa Anita Derby.  There are also bonus races at Aqueduct – Wood Memorial, and Keeneland – Blue Grass Stakes.  Hope to see you at Canterbury Park!

The Oracle

(Editor’s note: Per the rules, winners of entries to NHC or Horse Player World Series through Canterbury-sponsored contests are allowed to enter the Road to Kentucky while attending those contests.)