The unbeaten champion and Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist concluded his serious preparations for the “Run for the Roses” when he breezed a mile before a crowd of several thousand people at Keeneland on April 29th.
Working in company with stablemate and Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) winner Ralis, Nyquist began the work slowly with an opening quarter-mile in :27 flat, but picked up speed through four furlongs in :51 and six furlongs in 1:15 before finishing the mile in 1:41. Regular rider Mario Gutierrez was in the saddle, and Nyquist easily defeated Ralis, leaving him behind in the homestretch by approximately eight lengths.
“He exceeded our expectations there,” trainer Doug O’Neill was quoted as saying in a report on the Keeneland website. “Looked like he was doing it nice and easy. Now we want Mario smiling, and we’re in good shape.
“His standard mile back home is 1:45, 1:46, and he went 1:41 today,” he said. “Sometimes when he’s by himself, he used to kinda wait and not overdo it. Today Mario said as he pulled away from Ralis, he was doing it all on his own. Kind of a new dimension–-he’s comfortable pulling away from other horses, so that was cool.”
Nyquist has been training at Keeneland since early April, shortly after he posted a decisive victory in the Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park. Regarding the decision to train Nyquist at Keeneland, rather than his usual home base at Santa Anita, O’Neill said “To have gone from Florida back to Southern California and back to Kentucky just seemed like too much. I think [training at Keeneland has] enabled us to have him be as prepared as possible for the Kentucky Derby. The track here is so great. The main track’s in great shape, but if it rains you can go to the training track. Just haven’t missed a beat, really.”
Nyquist is expected to ship to Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon, where he will train lightly before the May 7th Kentucky Derby.