In the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park, Mihos took the next step forward on the road to Kentucky Derby 2019. Although no Derby qualifying points were at stake in the one-turn mile, trainer Jimmy Jerkens was trying to find out if the son of Cairo Prince was a legitimate contender for the Run of the Roses.
“He was resolute, that’s for sure”, said Jerkens. “That’s kind of typical of him. The first two races, he kept coming. Even when he looked like he didn’t have the best of it, he gives himself a little breather and then comes again.”
In his first career start, Mihos ran third behind graded stakes winner Vekoma and the promising Kelly Breen runner Epic Dreamer. The Centennial Farms runner, who was purchased for $320,000 as a yearling, was a convincing maiden winner in his next start at Aqueduct.
Breaking from the outside post position in his stakes debut, Mihos was forced to run wide throughout the entire race. Jockey Jose Ortiz timed his final move perfectly as they got the lead in the shadow of the finish line.
“We were a little wide the whole way,” explained Ortiz. “We had the outside post. Code of Honor was on my inside and I tried to make a move. I tried to run with him. At the 3/8ths-pole I was targeting Code of Honor because I thought he was the horse to beat. I hit left-handed and he gave me a great kick. He had a target in front of him and he kept coming.”
Mihos made it clear that he should continue on the Derby trail, while the 7-5 favorite Code of Honor was never a serious threat and finished fourth.
Jerkens said that Mihos will remain in Florida with the Holy Bull on Feb. 2 as the likely next stop, “I don’t have a schedule really in my head as far as dates and things like that, but we’ll certainly look at all the usual spots down here. I wanted to get by this first and then figure it out.”
A few hours later, out on the West Coast in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, Gunmetal Gray made a big late run to pick up the 10 Derby qualifying points. The heavy favorite Coliseum broke poorly and never looked comfortable in the race, eventually finishing sixth for Bob Baffert.
Gunmetal Gray, who ran second behind the likely Champion 2-Year-Old Game Winner in the American Pharoah, now has a total of 14 Derby points and proved that the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee is one that deserves a place on the Kentucky Derby trail.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was in the saddle for the winning ride and interestingly, Smith was not aboard either of the Baffert runners.
“Mike knew we wouldn’t be near the lead and we were hoping to get some pace to run at,” said Hollendorfer. “Mike sat back, bided his time and he ran them down. We came back here after the Breeders’ Cup and he’s really trained well the past two months.”
Gunmetal Gray, who was the second betting choice in the race, closed from last place some seven-lengths behind the early leaders. Smith summed the performance up nicely, “The best part of his race was the last part of the race.”
The odds-on favorite Coliseum, on the other hand, flashed the negative influence of his sire Tapit in his second career start. In his debut and subsequent workouts, the brilliance of this Tapit colt was on display. He was fast, athletic, and at times mentally immature.
However on this day, the Baffert trainee looked a bit washy around the neck and after he broke a step behind the rest of the field, he was never able to get into the race. He finished sixth in the field of seven beaten by almost five-lengths. A son of Tapit has never won the Kentucky Derby and at this point, Coliseum certainly did not move ahead on the Derby trail.
Next on the road to the Kentucky Derby is the Grade 3 Lecomte at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, January 19.
Photo of Gunmetal Gray courtesy of Benoit Photography