HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) When Rick Nichols was trying to buy Mohaymen at Keeneland's yearling sales in September 2014, his mandate was to cap the bidding somewhere around $2 million.
Turns out, he would have spent more if necessary.
''Probably would have gotten in trouble,'' said Nichols, who handles the buying for Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Farm. ''But I would have been forgiven.''
There's little doubt about that.
The $2.2 million it took to land a spectacular-looking son of Tapit might eventually seem like a bargain. Mohaymen improved to 4 for 4 in his career on Saturday, rolling to an easy win over a field of five others in the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park and presumably moving closer to a berth in the Kentucky Derby.
''I'm already thinking about that. I'm not going to lie,'' jockey Junior Alvarado said. ''I'm not even asking for him to get better. I just want him to stay sound. I pray to God that he just keeps being sound, and if that happens we're going to have a nice horse for a while.''
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Mohaymen pushed his career earnings to $555,000 and now has 20 points in the system used to decide the field for the season's first Triple Crown race at Churchill Downs in May.
Mohaymen finished the 1 1-16 miles in 1:42.07 for his third stakes win, the overwhelming favorite paying $2.60 for the win. He beat runner-up Greenpointcrusader by 3 1-2 lengths, and 40-1 shot Fellowship was another 2 1-2 lengths back for third.
Mohaymen and Greenpointcrusader hit the top of the stretch nearly side by side. Asked when he decided to make his move, Alvarado said the horse simply decided on his own.
''He's just a special horse,'' McLaughlin said. ''Makes it easy for us to train and to ride.''
Next up for Mohaymen is likely the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 27 and the Florida Derby on April 2, both at Gulfstream. McLaughlin said the experience of two more races would help, and Alvarado said the horse gets better every time out. Mohaymen's first three wins were well-earned, all by a combined 3 3-4 lengths in races that usually featured some hard work in the stretch.
Compared to those, Saturday was a breeze. And that investment Nichols made keeps paying off.
''He could have been a stallion if he didn't even break his maiden with that pedigree,'' Nichols said. ''But now he's a true stallion.''
For as good as he looked in the Holy Bull, the road gets harder from here. Winners of this race have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby only twice before, those being Go For Gin in 1994 and Barbaro in 2006.
''It doesn't take a genius to pick out Mohaymen,'' Nichols said. ''With his confirmation and his pedigree, everybody at the sale knew he was the best horse there. It was just who was willing to keep raising his hand.''
There were three other graded stakes races Saturday at Gulfstream.
Cathryn Sophia ($2.20) remained unbeaten in three career races by winning the Grade II Forward Gal and Pricedtoperfection ($11.40) prevailed in the Grade III Sweetest Chant, both for 3-year-old fillies. Also, Awesome Banner ($3.80) improved to 3-for-3 - all of them easy wins - in his career, taking the Grade II Swale for 3-year-olds.