NYQUIST TEAM HAS EYES ON THE PRIZE
This time of year, folks far and wide are dreaming of Kentucky Derby glory. Now that the Triple Crown drought is over, some are thinking about more than just the blanket of roses.
Nyquist is a very attractive contender from the Doug O’Neill barn that has Triple Crown threat written all over him. Currently unbeaten and full of run, this son of Uncle Mo hopes to complete something his father couldn’t. Considered the top Kentucky Derby contender in 2011 and the horse that could give America a chance at racing history, this son of Indian Charlie was bitten by the injury bug the week of the Kentucky Derby and missed the Triple Crown trail entirely.
Thus far in his racing career, Nyquist has displayed plenty of run like his pappy. After completing a perfect five for five two-year old season that culminated with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he began his run to Churchill Downs with a powerful win in the 7 furlong San Vicente of February 15. Taking the lead after the opening quarter mile, Nyquist pulled away in the final furlong under a hand ride from jockey Mario Guiterrez.
“It really was an exceptional effort in the San Vicente”, says O’Neill. “We figured it would be a short field and he would be challenged. I loved the way he answered the call when challenged in the stretch. That was another good step towards the foundation of a race horse.”
This is not the first Triple Crown construction project for O’Neill. A winner of over 2,000 races in his career, the Michigan native took I’ll Have Another to the brink of history in 2012 when he won both the Derby and Preakness. Injury forced his horse to be scratched the day before the Belmont, but the frenzy created during that time is something that can help O’Neill as he prepares for another run at the record books.
“Sure the past experience helps you prepare for this kind of challenge”, says O’Neill. “Once you go through it you realize how tough your horse has to be both mentally and physically.”
Using his experience, O’Neill has a game plan mapped out for this immensely talented colt. Because he already has enough qualifying points to make the field for Kentucky Derby 142 (30), Nyquist will skip into the Florida Derby on April 2. Owned by Reddam Racing LLC., this grandson of Indian Charlie has his conditioner excited as he looks for his seventh career win and sixth stakes victory at Gulfstream Park.
“I think having a fresh horse as you head into the Kentucky Derby is as important as anything”, says O’Neill. “We have tried to build a foundation with Nyquist. I think at this stage he is as good as any I have ever had.”
The first step along the way is obviously getting Nyquist to the Kentucky Derby in good order. Picking up his second blanket of roses would be thrilling, but having seen the conquering of the Triple Crown in 2015 and being close with I’ll Have Another in 2011, O’Neill is keeping an eye on the bigger picture.
“To see American Pharoah accomplish what he did certainly gives you some added belief”, says O’Neill. “He has been working great and we just want to take things one day at a time right now.”