Call it reading between the lines. Call it interpretation. Call it what you will, but it is something handicappers do a thousand times a day.
I note this because on the face of it, Mohaymen's victory Saturday in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park wouldn't knock your socks off. His Beyer Figure of 95, which may or may not be one you can hang your hat on (more about that later), wasn't particularly special, nor was his win margin of 2-1/4 lengths. But after I read between the lines and interpreted in my own way what I saw Mohaymen do in the Fountain of Youth, I came away very, very impressed.
Unlike the undefeated Swale and Hutcheson winner Awesome Banner, who went into the Fountain of Youth having to prove he could be as dominant routing as he was sprinting, and the unbeaten Zulu, who went into this race having to prove he not only could route, but also handle the jump to stakes company, and a fast track, Mohaymen came into the Fountain of Youth having to prove nothing in the context of this particular assignment. Mohaymen came into Saturday having won all four of his starts, three of them stakes, two of them around two turns.
For that reason alone, for Mohaymen, the Fountain of Youth had to be nothing more than a means to an end. All the race had to do was move this terrific colt one incremental step forward to the April 2 Florida Derby, which in turn is meant to have Mohaymen reach his peak on Kentucky Derby Day. And it is my interpretation that this is exactly the way Mohaymen's connections approached the Fountain of Youth.
Kiaran McLaughlin, who is as good as any trainer in the game (also my interpretation), gave Mohaymen two easy half-mile breezes following his decisive win in the Holy Bull in his 3-year-old bow late last month. Mike Vesce, DRF's clocker at Mohaymen's winter base at Palm Meadows, had the following to say in Saturday's DRF Clocker Report about Mohaymen's last two works:
In Mohaymen's first workout after the Holy Bull, Vesce noted he "didn't show much energy on the gallop-out." For Mohaymen's most recent work, Vesce noted he was "just okay," and went on to say, "he trained much better going into the Holy Bull."
What I read between the lines here is McLaughlin treated the Fountain of Youth more as a maintenance race instead of one Mohaymen absolutely had to win. And rightfully so. And when you look at it through that prism, it changes -- or should change -- the way you view what he did Saturday. Mohaymen was wide on the first turn, middle-moved to reach sharp contention simply because he can, and humbled as well a connected colt as Zulu, who drew an absolutely perfect trip, all while being far from ready to show what he can really do.
Yup, that impressed me.
As for Mohaymen's 95 Beyer Figure, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's one the Beyer folks keep a close eye on for potential future adjustment. As colleague Jay Privman noted, after six straight turf races, the Fountain of Youth was the first main track race in 3 hours and 44 minutes. It had also been 4 hours and 41 minutes since the only other two-turn main track race on the 13-race card. It's not certain, but on a dry, sunny day, it is quite possible that the relative speed of the Gulfstream main track could have changed in the long interim between it being used.
Other quick Saturday thoughts
There were three straight "Wow!" stakes performances earlier in the Gulfstream card, each for different reasons.
Some people might have been let down by the fact that X Y Jet only won the Gulfstream Park Sprint by a driving 1-1/4 lengths, but I was blown away by his effort. I thought it was amazing he prevailed after bobbling at the start, and then setting blistering fractions of 21.84 and 43.92 seconds, under pressure! Horses can be most impressive winners and not romp by 10, as X Y Jet showed.
Cathryn Sophia crushed her opposition again in the Davona Dale to remain undefeated and untested. But it was the way she rated so kindly off slow early fractions that I think was the most important aspect of her performance because it offers a strong reason to believe she will be just as effective when she finally stretches out to a route.
Catch a Glimpse made her first start since her victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf a winning one in the Herecomesthebride Stakes. The turn of foot Catch a Glimpse showed in upper stretch to put her field away was something else. It was, dare we say, almost Tepin-like.