Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist returns to worktab with a sharp five-furlong breeze
With exercise rider Jonny Garcia up, the unbeaten juvenile champion recorded splits in :12 3/5, :24 4/5 and :37 1/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:17 1/5.
“Jonny’s official verdict was he was very happy and it was really exactly what we were looking to do, just a good light stretch and have him finish up stronger than he started” O’Neill said following the breeze. “It went great, he’s cooling out super so we’re very happy.
Nyquist is scheduled to walk on Saturday and return to the track for a jog on Sunday.
By leading freshman sire Uncle Mo, the bay colt appears to have completely recovered from a brief health scare – a slightly elevated white blood cell count -- in the days after the Florida Derby.
O’Neill was asked if he felt like the world’s happiest trainer presently.
“I really am,” said O’Neill, who earned his first Kentucky Derby victory with I’ll Have Another in 2012. “I’m so blessed and a super lucky guy just to be part of this horse. We all realize that on a daily basis.”
O’Neill said he realized when Nyquist captured last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, overcoming being bumped at the start and a wide trip on both turns, he was extra special.
He was asked to compare the experience between I’ll Have Another and Nyquist leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
“This guy (Nyquist) is unique, he was such a brilliant 2-year-old where I’ll Have Another kind of struggled through his 2-year-old campaign. (With Nyquist), obviously being undefeated and he just hasn’t done anything wrong and just keeps amazing us on a daily basis.
“He thrives on all the activity and attention and that takes a special horse.”
O’Neill was asked Nyquist’s future schedule and said he plans to work Nyquist twice more before the Kentucky Derby.
“The plan, I think, will be something similar today the next couple of Fridays. We’ll huddle up whether or not he needs company in the last couple of works but I don’t think he will. He was so good today, so willing and galloped out strong. I don’t think he’ll need company so it will be very similar."
O’Neill was asked whether he thinks Nyquist has shown enough so far to have confidence in his ability to handle the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance.
“I think he has, he hasn’t done anything wrong but none of them have gone a mile and a quarter yet so it’s a question for all of us. I don’t think that will be a problem.
“He’s a special horse and we’re just trying to keep him happy. And mentally sound and physically sound, and just keep him moving the right way.”
O’Neill said he plans to ship Nyquist to Churchill Downs the Saturday (April 30) before the Kentucky Derby.