03/31/2016 2:10PM

Crist: Florida Derby hard at the top, soft underneath


The showdown between Nyquist and Mohaymen in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby is a rare treat. It is a throwback to the days when top classics contenders actually raced against one another before the Kentucky Derby instead of being kept apart until the main event through a bloated schedule of inflated Derby prep races. Nyquist and Mohaymen ran 1-2 in the Eclipse Award balloting for champion 2-year-old male and have been favored in every round of Derby Futures betting. Both are undefeated and probably could have stayed that way until the Derby if they were not meeting one race earlier.

While they probably could have divided and conquered had they been kept apart, the Florida Derby was the best spot for each colt, for different reasons. Nyquist is eligible for a $1 million payout on top of the purse through a bonus scheme linking the race to the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds, where he was purchased for $400,000 last March. In Mohaymen’s case, he was such a dominant winner of Gulfstream’s first two Derby preps, the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, that it made sense to keep him there, where he has something of a home-court advantage.

Conversely, it’s a race that makes no sense for any other serious classics contender in need of points to qualify for the Derby field. The Florida Derby is a 170-point race, but why run against Nyquist and Mohaymen when the upcoming Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby, and Wood Memorial offer the same points without having to face the nation’s top two 3-year-olds?

A week ago, it looked as if the two might face just two or three rivals who would have to be heavily recruited to start against them. So, it was a shock when entries were taken Wednesday that the race drew a field of 10, more than six of the seven other stakes on the Saturday card. Someone has to fill out the order of finish, and there are prizes of $100,000 for third, $50,000 for fourth, $30,000 for fifth, and $10,000 for sixth through 10th.

It is unclear whether some of the surprise entries are due to delusional owners or arm-twisting from the racing office; most likely, it’s a combination of the two. Either way, the credentials of some of the entrants are so weak that it is patently absurd that they are even running in a Grade 1 race.

Sawyers Mickey is an 0-for-7 maiden with a top Beyer Speed Figure of 66 in a race where Nyquist’s and Moyhaymen’s last starts earned respective figures of 101 and 95. Chovanes comes out of a maiden-claiming win. Fashionable Freddy has been trounced in three allowance races at the meet. Worst of all is Copingaway, a 1-for-14 claimer from a trainer who is 0 for 48 at the meeting, running back just a week after a 10-length drubbing in starter-allowance company. His five dirt races have earned Beyers ranging from 31 to 58.

This is getting into the territory previously reserved for horses such as Ricks Natural Star, the $3,500 claimer who was entered in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Turf, where he was eased at 55-1. That price would be a massive underlay on Copingaway.

A five- or six-horse Florida Derby would have been a far more dignified race than this odd assembly of kings and paupers, but the current calculus of racing offices is quantity over quality, handle over sport, warm bodies over deserving ones, and perpetual terror at the prospect of a short field.

It is the same thinking that ends up disrespecting important stakes races with short fields by running them early on the program to minimize any possible handle loss. Gulfstream could easily have had an all-graded-stakes Rainbow 6 but instead interrupted the sequence with a 12-horse maiden race because the Skip Away, Gulfstream Oaks, and Appleton drew fields of “only” six, seven, and eight.

Nyquist vs. Mohaymen is the showdown of the year to date and an unusual pre-Derby gift to the game. Here’s hoping that some of their unworthy opposition stays out of the way.

Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
mr crist once again you were wrong, the florida derby was not a 2 horse race.the larger field will serve as a better prep then running against 4 or 5 horses. your idea that this was a field of ricks natural stars was wrong. majesto ran a huge race finishing ahead of mohaymen in your 2 horse race. if the owners put up the entry and nomination fees who are you to judge if they should run.
Vince Piscitelli More than 1 year ago
>>> Once more Steve, are you going to lower the cost of the Form on Saturday for the good of the sport, or are you going to keep overcharging and try to maximize revenue? Same thing as field size, chum. <<<<


Let me ask you a serious question Anonymous.

If you had a hot dog stand and sold plain mustard dogs for $17 each and people continued to buy them at that price, would you lower the price?

Of course not.

Idiots - MYSELF INCLUDED, continue to purchase the DRF, so why in God's Holy Name on earth, would the DRF lower the price? Heck, if I were them, I'd raise it even higher and keep raising it until they see sales drop.

I pay $12 for it here in Concord, CA (yes, my local liquor store MARKS IT UP $2) and I continue to buy it almost daily - not that it's worth it but it beats printing 57 pages in ink every day. Plus I can't afford a computer to read it Online.

Vince P
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
I'm sure people have switched to other cheaper products, and thats part of why we pay so much. DRF has to have lost customers to the other online past performances. 
Bob More than 1 year ago
For all we know Takeittotheedge could be a monster.....
Bob More than 1 year ago
According to Mr. Crist it is a two horse race and therefore a two horse betting proposition....A 7-5 shot against a 6-5 shot. Excellent!

Sounds like another doozy of a betting proposition.

Frankly, I would rather see a large field of somewhat evenly matched horse with half the field having a shot at winning the race than to watch another one of these showdowns between two even money horses. I can get my fill of those races by watching SoCal racing any day of the week or the inner track at Aqueduct in the winter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once more Steve, are you going to lower the cost of the Form on Saturday for the good of the sport, or are you going to keep overcharging and try to maximize revenue? Same thing as field size, chum.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
mr crist, the #6 horse chavones is still listed as a colt. it is public record, his trainer did a interview with TVG on thursday and said he entered his horse because he improved in his last race since being gelded. the horse ran on 2/6/16 went off over 60-1 ran up the track. now as a gelding on 2/26/16 he wins by 5 at 7-2. there is something very wrong with this. i don't know who is at fault for this,but this is a problem that needs to be fixed. there needs to be a standard rule in all jurisdictions that you have 72 hours to report a horse as a gelding after he was gelded. the information in DRF is not accurate.on wednesday a horse named megacom won race 10 at GP. he ran on 2/7/16,3/4/16,3/11/16 and 3/30/16. DRF has him reported as a new gelding on 2/28/16. that can not be correct. this horse could not have possibly been gelded 6 days before his next start. instead of putting useless garbage such as pace ace,and moving the number of starters over you need to fix the real problems such as new geldings and inaccurate beyer numbers and jamming everything together in the running lines.as the the information in DRF gets worse the price keeps going up.there are other places to go for past performances your paper isn't the only game in  town.
john g More than 1 year ago
I think both of you are way off base. I believe that Mr. Crist cares more about horse racing and the average betting public than anybody involved in the sport. He is looked upon by the average horse player as a trusted source of knowledge, many players want his views on the multi races, especially the pick 6. I read it where Steve's article was a combination of constructive criticism where the tracks should have used the G-1 Fla. Derby as part of a graded pick 4 or something along that line. Many tracks do this on big race days, and bettors like it. On the other hand, I seen his concern where if several of the colts were far inferior to the top two it could possibly create a safety concern. Surely this is quite obvious to even you two? Nobody wants to see a bad spill, or a colt hurt badly due to a vastly inferior horse backing up or veering into the path of another. At the same time, the public wants to see a competitive race with a good field of quality colts that are actually capable of winning.As far as DRF charging too much, or being too expensive, I may agree with at times, but " The Form" is the best known source for handicapping the races, and would you prefer it go the same way as most newspapers across the country? They can't survive giving away what the report or provide. And, what handicapping tool do you see even the competition reading? How many times have you seen the guys on TVG handicapping a race only to see their reading the DRF Form? Thats just my views anyway.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
as long as these horses were nominated there is nothing that can be done. the only way to solve that would be making the florida derby by invitation, which is not the answer. not only inferior horses cause problems. bayern in the breeders cup classic caused problems at the start. 
Bob More than 1 year ago
Is that why Crist's company charges more for his publication than any other daily newspaper in the country? You know, on account of how he cares about the sport of racing and all?

Or why he restricts online access to 95%  the sophomoric articles that published in his newspaper, to only those people who are willing to pay $40 a month ($500/yr) to read them? You know, on account of how he cares about the sport of racing and all?
Thomas Masterson More than 1 year ago
Fellowship  is a good horse broke through track record  a few months  back third place 4 shore
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Steve, who are you to castigate a business for trying to increase revenue through additional betting interest. I don't see you lowering the price of the outrageously expensive Daily Racing Form for the good of the 'sport'. Also, in looking at the field, I find only Copingaway as the only real questionable entrant. Who knows how good Takeittotheedge or Majesto might be? Chovanes did win a maiden claimer, but the way he did it, who can blame an owner for dreaming. Sawyer's Mickey is a stretch, but Walder is sharp, and the horse is stakes-placed.

You're way off base here, chum. 
Juan Sandoval More than 1 year ago
Exactly...plus I'm tired of all this "G1" races with 5-6 horse fields where if you hit the race,you actually loose money...it's horse racing anything can and will happen...I'm
Eric Green More than 1 year ago
Who's to say Nyquist or Mohaymen won't interfere with some of the other horses in the field? I'm fans of them both, but neither is entitled to win the FL Derby, let alone the Ky Derby. Everyone needs to earn their spots fair and square. If one of these others picks up enough points, whatever that may be, to run for the roses, good for them. 
Jeff Rucker More than 1 year ago
Those horses that he's talking about don't belong in these races. If one of them runs 3rd they could end up in the derby. Horses that have run 14 times and they don't Beyer over 70 don't stand a chance. If they run 3rd they could keep someone else out that is more deserving
Eric Green More than 1 year ago
Perhaps Churchill Downs should have considered this when creating the absurd points system. Everyone is entitled and expected to play by the rules and they are what they are.
john g More than 1 year ago
I think the points system is as fair as your going to get any other way. Will there be a few in the gate vastly over matched? yes.And, probably a couple I'd prefer to be in the gate than sitting on the side lines. But, I haven't heard of a better system yet. Does that mean I still won't say occasionally that I wish so and so could have made the gate? no.