After winning the first five starts of his career, four of them Grade 2 stakes, Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen stood at the head of the 3-year-old class this past spring with the Triple Crown just around the corner.
Three straight off-the-board finishes ensued, however, most recently a fourth as the favorite in his return to action last month in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, the traditional local prep for the Grade 1, $ 1.25 million Travers presented by NYRA Bets.
Puzzling results called for a dramatic shakeup and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, after huddling with Shadwell general manager Rick Nichols, has re-routed Mohaymen to a date with sprinters Saturday in the 32nd running of the Grade 1, $ 500,000 Ketel One King’s Bishop at Saratoga Race Course.
The King’s Bishop, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds, is one of seven graded stakes races – six Grade 1s – on a blockbuster race card highlighted by the Travers. Saturday’s card will receive 4 ½ hours of national television coverage, including NBC’s live telecast of the Grade 1 Longines Sword Dancer and the Travers from 4:30 – 6 p.m. EDT.
To McLaughlin, the King’s Bishop presents a critical juncture for Mohaymen, a $ 2.2 million yearling purchase, as Shadwell eyes a future career for the horse as a stallion.
“It’s huge, and if he wins it, it’s off the charts,” McLaughlin said. “He’s won four Grade 2’s and to win a [seven-furlong] Grade 1 is huge as a stallion. He’s 2-for-2 around one turn. He broke his maiden at six [furlongs] and won the [Grade 2] Nashua at a mile at Aqueduct.”
McLaughlin and Shadwell were wavering between the King’s Bishop and Travers before finally settling on the shorter race last Saturday. Asked if the preparation was different for a seven-furlong race and a mile-and-a-quarter, McLaughlin said, “That’s a very good question, and you would think it would be different, and it might be a little different, but not with him and me.
“He never takes a deep breath; he never gets tired. So, once they’re fit, they’re fit, but he’s unusual in that regard. He’s clean-winded. He’s a fit racehorse.”
With the speedy allowance runners Drefong and Jazzy Times shipping in from California for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and the blazing but lightly raced Summer Revolution entered for Rudy Rodriguez, the pace should be fast for the King’s Bishop.
Except for his run in the Kentucky Derby, Mohaymen has always run within two lengths of the pace, but McLaughlin is not expecting such a forward placement in a return to sprinting.
“We feel like we’ll be more of a closer because we certainly can’t go :21, :43 or :44 [seconds] with those Baffert horses,” he said. “We’re not going to have to do much as far as taking him back. We’ll have to let [jockey] Junior [Alvarado] find his spot, whether it’s fourth or twelfth, or somewhere in between there, and hope he responds.
The King’s Bishop drew a field of 13, and a colt that might get lost in the thicket to bettors is the recent Grade 2 Amsterdam winner Mind Your Biscuits, racing for 22-year-old Brooklyn-born trainer Robert Falcone, Jr.
After running the first eight starts of his career against New York-bred opponents, Mind Your Biscuits stepped into open company and took the Amsterdam by 1 ¾ lengths with an off-the-pace effort. The win followed a 9 ¼-length score in a state-bred allowance race.
“A lot of people are underestimating him because he’s got an ‘NY’ next to his name,” Falcone said. “He beat a bunch of New York-breds and then he won the Amsterdam – that was the talk on the TV. He just won a New York allowance and now it’s open company, and all that, but he proved them wrong then so I’m hoping he can prove them wrong again.”
Mind Your Biscuits already has run three times at Saratoga, finishing second twice last year under a prior trainer and winning the Amsterdam. His highest Beyer Speed Figure in his first seven starts was an 80, but since Falcone added blinkers he has run a 94 and a 95.
“He’s matured a lot since he’s come to my barn, plus he fits my program well,” Falcone said. “I think the blinkers were the finishing touch.”
Two primary contenders are Fish Trappe Road and Economic Model, who ran 1-2 in the Grade 3 Dwyer on July 9 at a mile at Belmont Park. In that race, Economic Model cut the corner on the turn and looked like a winner, but a determined Fish Trappe Road ran him down on the outside to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
After four starts in New York as a 2-year-old for trainer Brett Calhoun, Fish Trappe Road was set on a path to the Triple Crown, but his first prep race, the Grade 3 LeComte at the Fair Grounds, proved a disaster.
“Our plan last fall was to have this horse around two turns this year,” Calhoun said. “We had him ready for the first prep race at the Fair Grounds and everything went bad. He stumbled bad at the start, grabbed a quarter, and he bled. So, we had to back off and start over again.”
After 3 1/2 months off, Fish Trappe Road reappeared in a seven-furlong optional claimer at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day and won by 5 ¼ lengths.
“I told everyone he’d run the first Saturday in May, I just didn’t say which race,” Calhoun quipped.
The owners in Martin Racing Stable wanted to go next into the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 11 at Belmont Park. Calhoun said he thought the race might be too ambitious, but Fish Trappe Road finished a solid second to Tom’s Ready, who also will contest the King’s Bishop. He then came out of that race and won the Dwyer.
“I thought it was an aggressive move,” Calhoun said of running in the Woody Stephens, “but it proved to be a good decision. The horses that were first and second on the pace ended up last and second-to-last, and we were the only one on the pace to stay up there. Then he got a perfect trip in the Dwyer and that put us here.
“Everybody asked us why we didn’t stretch out and go to the Jim Dandy – and we think he’ll be a good two-turn horse – but these are big purses, big races, and he’s doing well. There will come a time we’ll stretch him back out.”
Tom’s Ready flashed talent through the Kentucky Derby prep races in Louisiana, finishing second in the LeComte and second to Travers entrant Gun Runner in the Louisiana Derby despite a series of frustratingly troubled trips. But after finishing 12th in the Run for the Roses, trainer Dallas Stewart cut his runner back in distance and watched him swoop in from last in a field of 12 to run away with the Woody Stephens at seven furlongs.
“After the Derby, we were like, ‘This horse doesn’t want to run that far. He’s not going to be effective,’” Stewart said. “I thought he would be solid in the [Woody Stephens], but I didn’t think he would be that far back. When you’re last, a lot of times you stay last, but he came running. He’s a tough horse. He came back in [five] weeks [after the Derby] and scored. Maybe we found something he likes.”
Also in the field are Rated R Superstar, coming off a victory over multiple graded-stakes-winning sprinter Awesome Banner in the Grade 3 Carry Back last month at Gulfstream Park; Star Hill, third in the Woody Stephens and then third in the Indiana Derby in his two most recent starts; Summer Revolution, who has won his only two starts by a combined 10 ¼ lengths with a race-high top Beyer Speed Figure of 105; two-time graded-stakes-placed Canadian-based sprinter Noholdingback Bear; allowance winner Bird Song, who is a son of Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town; and Dwyer third-place finisher Tale of S’avall.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2016 Paulick Report.