HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The lineup for Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby surprisingly swelled to 10 3-year-olds when the race was drawn Wednesday, although the last-minute additions of Copingaway, Chovanes, and Isofass did little to change the overwhelming notion that the Grade 1 event remains strictly a two-horse race between the undefeated division leaders Mohaymen and Nyquist
Mohaymen, established as the even-money favorite by Gulfstream Park linemaker Jay Stone, will break from post 9, while Nyquist, the reigning juvenile male champion, drew post 4 as the 6-5 second choice for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. The field, in post-position order, consists of Sawyers Mickey (jockey Scott Spieth), Fellowship (Jose Lezcano), Majesto (Javier Castellano), Nyquist (Mario Gutierrez), Copingaway (John Castillo), Chovanes (Edgard Zayas), Takeittotheedge (Tyler Gaffalione), Fashionable Freddy (Nik Juarez), Mohaymen (Junior Alvarado), and Isofass (Julien Leparoux).
Nyquist, who arrived from the West Coast on Tuesday, visited the track and the starting gate during training hours here Wednesday.
“He’s doing well; he’s settled in nicely to Mark Hennig’s barn,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “The gate crew spent good, quality time with him. Everything went perfectly the first day.”
O’Neill said he wasn’t too concerned about the post-position draw.
“I don’t think there’s really a bad post for him,” O’Neill said. “He’s got enough gate speed to get good position. Like all the others, you just have to leave there running.”
O’Neill said he also wasn’t surprised that the expected seven-horse field swelled to 10.
“When you offer a million dollars and they pay down to fifth or sixth place, whatever they do, and there is an opportunity to get Kentucky Derby points, I don’t blame some of the others for going in,” said O’Neill. “If this race was at my home track, I’d have probably put another one in myself.”
Trainer Dale Romans made no bones about his strategy with Takeittotheedge, who comes into the Florida Derby as the least-experienced member of the field, having won his only start by nearly eight lengths while going seven furlongs March 5.
“I have a horse with a lot of talent, a horse who won his only start on the lead with his ears pricked,” said Romans, who quietly applauded when Takeittotheedge drew post 7. “Speed is always dangerous, and he’ll be in front. I’d hate to have skipped this race, had him win an allowance race very impressively, and be wondering afterwards what might have been.”
Fellowship is a stakes winner and the only other multiple winner in the field aside from the two favorites. He finished third behind Mohaymen in both the Grade 2 Holy Bull and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. The rest of the seemingly overmatched lineup have won just once apiece, other than Sawyers Mickey, who is stakes-placed but enters the prestigious Florida Derby still a maiden after seven starts.