Normally, it's a good thing for a high-class Derby prospect to have a tough race during Derby preparations. If you're an owner or trainer, you want to see that your colt can handle some adversity going into the Derby rodeo. If he gets a good stiff challenge, a bit of bumping or just a generally tough race and comes out of it unhurt and with undiminished zest for competition while accumulating the needed points for a Kentucky Derby berth, that's all to the good. The problem is that you don't want that tough race in your colt's final prep, when he may not have enough recovery time before the big dance.
That is the situation facing the connections of Nyquist and Mohaymen, who will square off in tomorrow's Florida Derby. It's possible that both will be beaten. It's possible that one will prove much superior and come home without sweating it too much; if that happens, "hot" won't begin to describe the winner's status as the favorite for the roses. Even if the race turns into a dogfight in the stretch, it's possible that Nyquist and Mohaymen are good enough and tough enough to do a mean riff on Free House and Silver Charm, who came back from a tough race in the 1997 Santa Anita Derby (USA-I) to run a bang-up series of races in the Triple Crown events. But a hard race may mean that both colts lose more than they win.