The catalyst for the showdown is a US$1 million dollar bonus awaiting any Florida sales graduate that can win the Florida Derby. Nyquist, a graduate of the March 2015 Fasig-Tipton sale of 2-year-olds in training, qualifies as eligible, and the winner's share of a US$1 million race plus another million in bonus money is a pretty potent incentive to invade Mohaymen's turf.
Kiaran McLaughlin isn't blinking. He knows what he has in Mohaymen, who not only mastered a good field with the same smooth ease he has shown in his earlier starts this year but showed perfect composure as Zulu delayed loading with a display of temperament. That kind of mental maturity is priceless at Churchill Downs, where the crowd noise and the sheer press of humanity can send a temperamentally fragile animal into meltdown. Once the gates opened, Mohaymen showed the same professionalism in settling well early despite getting a bit of jostling during the early going and in going inside or outside horses as jockey Junior Alvadaro pleased.
Both colts could, of course, go elsewhere. Nyquist could stay home for the Santa Anita Derby (USA-I), and Mohaymen could go to McLaughlin's New York base for the Wood Memorial (USA-I). But at this point, neither trainer is backing down. Both have confidence in their unbeaten colts. Thus, it looks as if April 2 may give us the most dramatic Triple Crown prep since Secretariat and Sham were upset by Angle Light in the 1973 Wood Memorial (USA-I). May the best horse win.