There is one thing that is proven year after year on the road to the Kentucky Derby - three-year-old thoroughbreds are not boring or predictable. The latest proof of that came in the Florida Derby. We expected it to be a two-horse showdown betweenMohaymen and Nyquist. The other eight horses were afterthoughts. Irrelevant. But then Mohaymen failed to fire and wound up fourth, and suddenly two horses we had thought little of - Majesto and Fellowship - had the points to punch their ticket to the Kentucky Derby. Fellowship, who finished third in the Florida Derby, was less of a surprise, having finished respectably behind Mohaymen in two previous races. Majesto, though, was right out of the blue. He's a horse that virtually no one was thinking much of heading into this race, but now he has a seat at the adult's table and we have to catch up on who he is and what he has to offer.
So, is Majesto a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender or just a pretender crashing the party?
Last race: Majesto drew the No. 3 spot in the gate but consciously didn't use the proximity to the rail to his early advantage. He settled well off the pace early, letting things settle down around him. The early fractions weren't blistering, but they were fast enough to set up a nice late move for him. He moved forward aggressively around the final turn, took over second confidently, tried to take on Nyquist but quickly realized he was no match, and held on nicely for a strong second place. It was a very solid race - especially considering that it was the first time not only against stakes company but against other horses that had ever won a race before. There was more maturity than you might have expected given the spot. What has gotten more buzz than the race, though, is what happened after the line. There are race observers who put a lot of stock in how well horses gallop out - suggesting it can be an indicator of what is left in the gate. By the time the camera had moved off of the finish line and back onto the winner, Majesto had galloped past him by a good five lengths. The Kentucky Derby is longer than the Florida Derby, and longer than some think Nyquist can run effectively, so it's a good omen for Majesto - or at least a reason to build some hype around a long shot.
Prior experience: I went for dinner last night at one of those old school family pizza places. On the menu, as usual in places like that, was the reminder 'Good food takes time to prepare'. Well, sometimes, good horses take time to learn to win. That was certainly the case here - Majesto needed five tries to break his maiden. He tried once at Belmont in October and then four more times at Gulfstream starting in December until finally doing it at the end of February. While it certainly would have been nice to see him get it done faster, there was no real shame in his path. He was third twice and second once, and he lost to some good horses - Destin, who win Majesto's debut, is going to be among the Derby favorites, and Gettysburg is working to make the Derby field, too. The last four races were at a mile and a sixteenth and longer, too, so there is some seasoning. The jump from maiden to stakes is truly massive, and this is far from ideal, but it could be worse.
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado is a fascinating story. He was the top trainer in Venezuela for three decades - all-time wins leader and winner of the Venezuelan Triple Crown. In 2014 he came up here full time and promptly won the meet title at Gulfstream. Since then he has been solid but not as successful, and he has had only a couple of stakes breakthroughs. He'll be a new name to a lot of casual race fans leading up to the Derby, but he certainly isn't new to the sport.
Jockey: This is unclear at this point. Javier Castellano has been aboard the last two times, but he also rides Destin for Todd Pletcher, so he will be unavailable on Derby day. John Velazquez and Irad Ortiz Jr. have also both been aboard, but neither is likely to be available, either. The nice thing about the Derby, though, is that there is no shortage of excellent riders hanging around looking for a mount. The horse will be fine.
Breeding: Majesto's sire is Tiznow. He is the only horse ever to win two Breeders' Cup Classics, and he has sired horses that have won the Belmont and the Dubai World Cup. Needles to say, there are stamina influences in the pedigree. Majesto's damsire is Unaccounted For, who won some big stakes in his day and spent most of his stud time in Turkey. Majesto's dam has two prior foals who have won graded stakes. The breeding isn't a major concern for this horse.
Odds: At this point we don't know much other than that Majesto will be a long shot. BetOnline does not have individual odds listed for the horse - and it does for 45 others. The final official Kentucky Derby futures pool took place the same weekend as the Florida Derby, so Majesto obviously was not one of the 20 horses individually listed. He was included as part of the mutuel field at 10/1.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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