By Jonathan Lintner
For a moment, as Nyquist slid outward and Mohaymen slowed at the top of the stretch Saturday, Majesto looked as if he might slip by on the rail and score a major upset in the Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby. Then came a late bid from closing Fellowship, too.
The champion 2-year-old Nyquist ultimately hit another gear, going on to a 3 1/4-length victory. But the runner-up Majesto and third-place Fellowship earned enough points to move on to the Kentucky Derby for their efforts. They also gave reason for consideration when wagering on the first Saturday in May.
Majesto took five starts to break his maiden and faced winners for the first time Saturday. While the race ended at 1 1/8 miles, he had more run left, galloping out well ahead of Nyquist after the wire.
“Not too many horses step up like that and gallop out like he did,” jockey Javier Castellano said of the Tiznow ridgling. “It was amazing because he hooked up with the best horses in the country. The good thing about him is I was saving ground and when a hole opened, he went through and finished really well.
“I think he’s going to be good going to the Derby. He has the points, and he’s late-developing. He’s going to start getting really good. I am looking forward to him as he gets older.”
Fellowship also finished third to Mohaymen in two previous races at Gulfstream Park, the Grade II Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth. He drove by on the outside of Mohaymen in the stretch and clicked off the Florida Derby’s quickest final fraction – 12.69 seconds compared to the 12.72 posted by Nyquist, though the winner did appear to be “playing around” near the wire, as trainer Doug O’Neill put it.
Still, “I think the next start he will be even better,” said Fellowship’s conditioner, Stanley Gold, who hasn’t yet confirmed the Awesome of Course colt for the Derby but indicated it’s likely.
“He’s improved with each race. He’s run good and consistent all three times against the best. So we know how he’d fare against the best. It’s not like we’ve been running away from them.”
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