May 7, 2016
LOUISVILLE, Ky.–Nyquist owner Paul Reddam, a numbers guy, said that if he didn’t own the horse he would be trying to figure a way to beat him. Why? Favorites lose two out of every three races.
But Reddam, who was guardedly optimistic, saw his horse beat the odds as the favorite to win Saturday in the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
It was Nyquist’s eighth win and it was almost impossible to deny his star power was on a big rise.
The 2-to-1 favorite covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.13, with Mario Gutierrez aboard, and paid $6.60, $4.80 and $3.60.
Exaggerator finished second and paid $5.40 and $4.20, while Gun Runner was third and returned $6.
By all rights it should have been Nyquist, who was undefeated in his seven races, including a win over Mohaymen in the Florida Derby. But people kept picking on him, saying his Uncle Mo pedigree wasn’t good enough for 1 ¼ miles.
And, he didn’t have great speed figures.
Still, he was the star this week at Churchill Downs. The track had only one news conference and that was with trainer Doug O’Neill, owner Paul Reddam and jockey Mario Guiterrez.
People also latched on to the connections of Exaggerator as the trainer, Keith Desormeaux, was the older brother of jockey Kent. It was Keith’s first Kentucky Derby, while Kent had won three of them.
The speculation going into the race was that there wasn’t a lot of early speed and that would set up nicely for Nyquist, who could run off the pace. His style was such that he won on the front (San Vicente), stalking (Florida Derby) and from way back (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile).
Bob Baffert, who was American Pharoah’s trainer, is one of the best at getting a horse at peak performance on the first Saturday in May. So, there was a lot of attention paid to Mor Spirit, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.
The horse’s owner is Michael Lund Petersen, who founded the Pandora jewelry company.
So, now we are down to just one horse with a chance of duplicating the Triple Crown feat of last year. Back-to-backs have happened. Seattle Slew won in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978. Then we went 37 years before American Pharoah.
The next step for the winner is the Preakness Stakes in two weeks at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The race is slightly shorter at 1 3/16ths of a mile. Since 1980, 13 horses have won the first two legs but only American Pharoah was able to convert and win the third race.
The third race is the Belmont Stakes in New York. It comes three weeks after the Preakness. But the real trick is that it is 1 ½ miles, a distance rarely run on the dirt in the United States.
Will it happen this year? We’ll know more in two weeks.