2016 Kentucky Derby - Handicapping the Remsen Stakes

November 28, 2015 08:36am
Mohaymen Nashua 615x400
Photo: NYRA Photo

The prestigious Remsen Stakes (G-2) offers a chance for two-year-old colts to race 1 1/8 miles for the first time in a stakes race.  The first four finishes will earn entry points towards the 2016 Kentucky Derby.


In the last three years, colts who placed in the Remsen, Normandy Invasion (2012), Wicked Strong (2013), and Frosted (2014), finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Keen Ice placed third in the Remsen and was second in the Belmont Stakes. The last colt to win both the Remsen and Kentucky Derby was Thunder Gulch in 1994.


This year, a field of nine juveniles will race over the Aqueduct main course.  The top three finishers in the one mile Nashua Stakes face a field of maiden winners looking to take the next step.


The Favorite:

The Nashua hero Mohaymen (Tapit - Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union) will attempt to remain undefeated in his third start.  The pretty gray son of Tapit previously beat Remsen entrants Flexibility and Sail Ahoy by an authoritative 1 ¾ lengths in the one mile Nashua Stakes while racing wide throughout.  Mohaymen’s dam, Justwhistledixie is a multiple graded stakes winner who captured the 1 1/8 mile Bonnie Miss (G-2) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, so distance shouldn’t be a factor for Mohaymen. Mohaymen is a half brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero New Year’s Day.  Additionally, Mohaymen has Rasmussen Factor inbreeding (inbred to a blue hen within five generations) to Foggy Note through the full siblings Relaunch and Moon Glitter. Inbreeding to a blue hen has proven to be a positive breeding factor resulting in many high level stakes winners. 


Upset Potential:

Sail Ahoy (Bernardini - Matlacha Pass, by Seeking the Gold) has a stalking running style. Far back early, Sail put in a good late run in the Nashua Stakes and was nosed out for second place by Flexibility.  This well-bred baby has a classic distance pedigree.  He’s a half brother to Alabama Stakes heroine Pine Island and to the multiple G-1 winning turf router Point Of Entry.  Sail Ahoy carries Phipps family breeding and his distaff line is loaded with champions.  Trainer Shug McGaughey breezed Sail Ahoy a quick pre-race 4F in company with the maiden Inspector Lynley and the son of Bernardini adds blinkers in an effort to add speed and focus.  If this strategy works, Sail Ahoy has the potential to cruise by the field for the victory.  Sail Ahoy owns the highest late pace speed figure in the field.  McGaughey visited the Remsen winner’s circle in 2012 with Honor Code.


Trainer Chad Brown has entered two colts in the Remsen Stakes, Gift Box and Nashua Stakes runner-up Flexibility. Brown won the Remsen last year with Leave the Light On.


Gift Box (Twirling Candy - Special Me, by Unbridled's Song) may be the lesser regarded of the two contestants, but he has the better chance of getting 1 1/8 miles.  His sire Twirling Candy is a three-time graded winner at 1 1/8 miles. Gift Box is a half to the multiple stakes winning sprinter/miler Stonetastic. Their dam is a half sister to Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) hero Our New Recruit.  Despite the swiftness in his distaff line, Gift Box also carries the genes of damsire Unbridled’s Song and Lord Avie, both winners of the Florida Derby. Winning his maiden last time out, Gift Box stalked the pace and then ran down the stubborn leader to win by a head. It was 18 lengths back to the third place finisher in the 1 1/16 miles event.  Gift Box recorded a pre-race bullet 5F breeze and the pretty gray colt owns the second highest late pace speed figure in the field.


Underneath Plays:

Never leave Todd Pletcher and Johnny Velazquez off of your tickets in a stakes race. Pletcher’s entry Donegal Moon (Malibu Moon - Perfect Cause, by Giant's Causeway) put it all together in his fourth start, dominating maidens by 4 ¾ lengths in a mile race.  The colt has a later maturing pedigree and his speed figures have improved in his last three starts.  Donegal Moon’s second dam is the 1995 Champion Turf mare Possibly Perfect.  Donegal Moon could jump to the lead from his rail position. Pletcher won the 2012 edition of the Remsen with the pace-pressing Overanalyze.


Flexibility (Bluegrass Cat - Santa Vindi, by Vindication) drifted out a bit in the Nashua, yet still edged Sail Ahoy for second place.  Flexibility has a miler pedigree. His sire Bluegrass Cat won the Remsen Stakes and as a three year old, he finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Flexibility’s damsire offers more miler speed to the mix. Flexibility breezed a pre-race bullet 4F with the older allowance horse Infinite Midnight.  Flexibility drifted in the Nashua Stakes and the Remsen may be a little too far for him.   


Not Today:

Hunter O'Riley (Tiz Wonderful - Oblige, by Bernardini) is the only colt with experience at the Remsen distance.  He finished second in a maiden turf race at 1 1/8 miles, beaten a bare nose. The son of Tiz Wonderful came back to win his last race at 1 1/16 miles over the dirt.  Conditioned by Joe Sharp, Hunter O’Riley ships in from Kentucky, avoiding the over-subscribed Kentucky Jockey Club stakes. The colt’s speed figures would have to improve for him to visit the winner’s circle.


Marengo Road (Quality Road - Gac's Tomboy, by Unbridled's Song) has a miler pedigree and I’m not convinced that he’s a dirt horse, despite all of the dirt attributes in his pedigree.  He has yet to win over a fast track. He’s recorded victories over the turf and slop at Laurel Park, including a rousing nine-length victory over allowance foes in his last. There’s little blacktype in his pedigree.  


Runaway King (Run Away and Hide - Dearest Queen, by Proudest Romeo) has hit the board once, in his maiden victory sprinting over the lawn. His dam is a stakes winner over grass and owns the only blacktype in two generations of the distaff family.  Runaway King is bred to be a sprinter/miler. 


Ravenheart (Dance With Ravens - Flying Lady, by Fly So Free) won his debut sprinting, and then finished off of the board against Maryland State-bred winners, again at six furlongs. He appears up against it.



No rain is forecast for Saturday, so the track should be fast.  Pace setter/pressers have won the last five editions of the Remsen Stakes. The last colt to win the Nashua/Remsen double was To Honor and Serve in 2010. Since then, only two colts have hit the board in both races.


Mohaymen has done nothing wrong in his two-race career, he has the pedigree to handle 1 1/8 miles and he’s the one to beat. That being said, I think we may see a bit more speed out of Sail Ahoy with the addition of blinkers. If he’s closer to the pace he should be a serious factor. Both Sail Away and Gift Box have higher late pace speed figures than Mohaymen. 


#6  Gift Box (4-1)

#2  Sail Ahoy (6-1)

#3 Mohaymen (8-5)

#1 Donegal Moon (15-1)


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Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

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