02/01/2016 1:13PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Holy Bull Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Mohaymen and jockey Junior Alvarado win the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths.

Grade 2, $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Gulfstream Park, Jan. 30, 2016
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Mohaymen (sire: Tapit)
Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Owner: Shadwell Stable
Beyer Speed Figure: 95

MOHAYMEN picked right up at 3 where he left off at 2, with another victory, this perhaps the most impressive of his four-race career. He is clearly the top-ranked Kentucky Derby prospect on the East Coast, and until male 2-year-old champion Nyquist makes his first start at age 3 later this month, a case can be made that Mohaymen is the top-ranked Derby contender, period.

I liked Mohaymen’s race in the Remsen Stakes quite a bit, and the Holy Bull did nothing to dilute my keen interest in him. He has enough tactical speed to get a good early position, and he knows how to finish off a race.

In the Holy Bull, Mohaymen seemed to break half a step slowly, but he quickly got going and went into the first turn along the rail in third behind two leaders – PERFECT SAINT and GREENPOINTCRUSADER – who were setting a very moderate pace. He split those two down the backstretch, and after Perfect Saint dropped away before the far turn, he raced with Greenpointcrusader into and around the far turn. He had a narrow lead heading into the lane, switched leads on cue, then drew clear without being asked one bit by Alvarado.

As impressive as the race was visually, consider too that Mohaymen moved into the teeth of slow fractions with a third quarter in 23.46 seconds and a fourth quarter in 23.52 seconds, for a second half-mile in 46.98 seconds. It’s going to be tough for any other 3-year-old to match that kind of acceleration going two turns. He’s the goods.

Greenpointcrusader, who finished second, broke alertly and raced around the first turn just outside of Perfect Saint while under restraint. He put his head in front of Perfect Saint midway down the backstretch, then was engaged by Mohaymen. He went with Mohaymen through that fast third quarter, began to lose ground entering the lane, was encouraged to keep up, but could not, though he held second. This was a good race, but I’m still not convinced he’s going to improve with more distance. Until proven otherwise, I’m taking the position that he would prefer to make one run around one turn.

FELLOWSHIP, who rallied for third, had no early speed and trailed early while racing inside, went around Perfect Saint on the backstretch, but then ducked back to the rail on the far turn, angled off the inside entering the lane, was no match for the top two, but showed some grit to put away CONQUEST BIG E in the final furlong. This was by far his best race yet.

Conquest Big E, who was fourth, was jostled a bit leaving the gate, was in front of only Fellowship around the first turn, raced three paths wide on the far turn, appeared to be going better than Fellowship nearing the head of the stretch, but had nothing to offer in the final furlong. His barn believes he can do better based on the way he trains, but he’s been a cut below in his two tries against top-class company.

FRONTIER RANGER, who was fifth, raced outside of Mohaymen around the first turn. He began to be outrun when Mohaymen and Greenpointcrusader quickened noticeably in the third quarter of the race, was engulfed by Fellowship and Conquest Big E on the far turn, had no response, and raced on his wrong lead through the stretch.

Perfect Saint, who was last of six, broke best of all, led narrowly from Greenpointcrusader into the backstretch, but began a steady fade once Mohaymen and Greenpointcrusader began their elongated, midrace sprint. He needs much easier company.