As much as he admired the horse, Kiaran McLaughlin wasn’t sorry to see American Pharoah hang up his racing shoes and retire to stud. Three times the 55-year-old Kentucky native took a shot at American Pharoah with his own 3-year-old, Frosted, and three times he fell short.
Fourth in the Kentucky Derby, second in the Belmont and third in the Travers, a race in which American Pharoah, in his only defeat of the year, finished second to Keen Ice.
American Pharoah became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown. Frosted became a footnote: The only horse to hit the board, yet fail to win, in three separate stabs to beat the thoroughbred star.
Now comes a new year, and McLaughlin might have the 3-year-old to beat.
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That colt, Mohaymen, will put his unbeaten record on the line Saturday when he races in the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
For East Coast horses, it’s the first take-note step on the road to the Triple Crown, a 1 1/16-mile event in which Mohaymen is the the 6-5 program favorite.
“I’ve never come into the Holy Bull undefeated, and we’ve had some nice horses run in it,” said McLaughlin, whose Cairo Prince won the race in 2014 before injury knocked him out of the Triple Crown picture.
Mohaymen made his mark as a 2-year-old last year, punching out wins in the Remsen and Nashua Stakes at New York’s Aqueduct. The Holy Bull marks his first race of 2016.
“What’s different about him is he just doesn’t get tired,” the trainer said. “He’s a very fluid mover, a great mover, and he just doesn’t get tired.”
Mohaymen ought to be special. He was bought by Shadwell Stable for $2.2 million at Keeneland’s September yearling sale in 2014. So far, he’s living up to his lofty price tag.
But the Holy Bull might be no easy cakewalk for him.
Though the race has attracted a small field of six horses, two — Greenpointcrusader and Conquest Big E — loom as serious challengers. Greenpointcrusader won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in October at Belmont, and Conquest Big E earned a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he finished eighth.
The Holy Bull isn’t the only stakes for 3-year-olds on the Gulfstream card.
Awesome Banner, and impressive winner at Gulfstream in his only two career starts, heads a field of six in the $150,000 Swale Stakes, a 7-furlong event. Awesome Banner broke his maiden by nearly 10 lengths in June, then returned in January for a 4 3/4-length victory in the 6-furlong Hutcheson Stakes.
The 12-race card also includes three other stakes for 3-year-olds:
▪ The $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.
▪ The $100,000 Kitten’s Joy for 3-year-olds on the turf.
▪ The $100,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.