Catching Up With Mohaymen; Colt Readies for Return at Camden Training Center
By Mary Perdue
The talented but puzzling Mohaymen returns to his roots and readies for his 4-year-old campaign at Camden Training Center in Camden, SC.
When now 4-year-old Mohaymen stepped off a van in Camden, South Carolina in early January, trainer Kevin Kahkola couldn’t help but wonder if the fancy gray colt knew he was home. Kahkola is responsible for breaking many of the young Shadwell runners at the Camden Training Center and provided Mohaymen with his early start as 2-year-old and, now back where it all started, the conditioner led the handsome gray right to stall number one, which is reserved for the most important horse among the approximately 50 stabled at the facility.
“Relax,” Kahkola says he’d like to see Mohaymen do as he readies for his first 2017 start. “Put weight on and keep it on. Chill out. Enjoy working again.”
Camden seems a good place for all these things to happen. The training center, just barely outside the small town in rural South Carolina, is quiet and peaceful, hidden and calm, a perfect spot for a horse to learn to race and to recover from a grueling season and to thrive and mature into full racing potential.
Although most racing careers have peaks and valleys, few have been as bewildering as Mohaymen’s so far. A $2.2M Keeneland September yearling in 2015, he was brilliant at two, winning his first start and then going on to take both the Nashua Stakes (GIII) and Remsen Stakes(G2) around two turns in New York before heading south for the winter. His impressive triumphs in the Holy Bull Stakes (GII) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) as a newly turned 3-year-old stamped him as a top Triple Crown contender, and many thought he would dominate Nyquist when they matched up for the first time in the Florida Derby (GI).
“He wasn’t himself that day,” Kahkola reasoned, when asked his opinion of the colt’s race. “He wasn’t trying. He was listless and (jockey) Junior (Alvarado) said he washed out.”
After finishing a well-beaten fourth to the reigning juvenile champion that day, Mohaymen was again fourth in the Kentucky Derby, “missing a grade 1 placing by a head.” He then failed to finish in the money in his remaining two starts of 2016 – the Jim Dandy Stakes (GI) and King’s Bishop Stakes (GI) — and subsequently was sent to Shadwell’s Lexington, Kentucky, farm for an extended break.
Since arriving at Camden this year, Kahkola says he likes what he sees so far.
“He’s grown into himself and looks more like a man,” the trainer explained.
Mohaymen’s schedule is pretty rigid; he trains six days a week, galloping 1 ½ to 1 ¾ miles a day after a routine jog to the quarter pole. He trains alone because, “he’s too aggressive to go in company,” Kahkola says.
Kahkola recalled Mohaymen’s early days at Camden as a 2-year-old, when he and stablemate, the grade 3 winner Shagaf, were breezing partners.
“They were the two best horses here as babies and the last to leave Camden for the races since they were both late developers. (Mohaymen) was like a lot of Tapits — playful, very forward, and they like to train.”
Kahkola doesn’t know what the future holds for Mohaymen, only that when he’s called up to rejoin trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn that he’ll be fit and ready. He breezed three-eights for the first time in 2017 Saturday.
“We’d like to keep him here as long as possible,” Kahkola said.
If Mohaymen continues to progress, he’ll ship to Palm Meadows in Florida in mid-March where he’ll train for either a lower level stakes or allowance before being pointed to the Metropolitan Handicap (GI) at Belmont in June.
“We’re thinking he might be more of a miler,” the conditioner reasoned.
Every day Mohaymen gets to roll in the dirt, according to his groom. And his regular blacksmith is flown in from Kentucky whenever he needs his feet done. After his daily bath, Mohaymen is hot-walked in his blue cooler for about twenty minutes, after which he’s hand grazed in the warm Carolina sun. It’s easy to see how a horse could thrive in such a caring, laid-back environment.
Mohaymen does have one minor yet entertaining distraction in his daily routine. according to Kahkola. His “noisy neighbor “ in the stall next door, a 2-year-old Candy Ride colt (out of the Marju mare Safarjal), likes to bounce his Jollyball and nip at passersby.
After training and rolling and walking and lunch, Mohaymen gets to spend the remainder of his day relaxing in his stall. In Camden it seems he’s getting every chance to mature into the grade 1 winner his connections always hoped and believed him to be. With time, patience and a little bit of luck, racing fans and his connections may soon have the pleasure of watching him cross the wire in front again.