O’NEILL ENJOYS THE DERBY TREASURE
When Kentucky Derby champion trainer Doug O’Neill hauled home his engraved trophies on June 18, it was all smiles and with good reason. The two-time winner has a firm grip on what it means to win the world’s most famous horse race.
After guiding I’ll Have Another to Derby glory as a 19-1 longshot in 2012, the Southern California based trainer came to Churchill Downs with an unbeaten monster in Nyquist. Pulling all the right strings, O’Neill saw his horse deliver a huge effort in winning Derby 142. Now that the dust has settled and the Triple Crown chase has ended, the Michigan native will quickly admit his Derby wins are about way more than two minutes.
“The Kentucky Derby is really about a lifetime,” smiles O’Neill. “When you think about it everybody in the game yearns to be a part of the greatest race in the world. This is so special when you win it will last a lifetime.”
The most recent Derby win was put into the books over 6 weeks ago, but for the upbeat O’Neill, his feet never touched the bricks of the Churchill winner’s circle.
“Of course I am still walking on air,” laughs O’Neill. “We went to the museum and saw how they have incorporated our win into the Derby film and it brought tears to my eyes. When you know what the process is to even be able to run in a race like this and then be able to win it is just incredible.”
After his fantastic run on the first Saturday in May, Nyquist absorbed his first career defeat in the Preakness. Now pointed towards a summer campaign and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Wanting to finish 2016 strong is natural, but O’Neill will never sell short the things his horse has already accomplished.
“For year end honors we would like to see him finish strong,” says O’Neill, “ but that may be a bit selfish. If Nyquist never runs or wins again he will always be a champion to us. We are just so blessed to be a part of this incredible journey he has taken us on.”