Nyquist arrives at Keeneland
Unbeaten champion and presumptive Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite Nyquist wasn’t resting on his laurels the morning after his conquest of the Florida Derby (G1). The Doug O’Neill pupil shipped out of South Florida, and by midafternoon Sunday, was making his grand entrance at Keeneland.
The site of his first two appearances at auction, and his Eclipse-clinching victory in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Keeneland will now serve as Nyquist's home away from home as he builds up to the May 7 Kentucky Derby.
Assistant trainer Jack Sisterson, who was on hand to greet the champ, explained the rationale for pitching camp at Keeneland.
“Doug chose to bring him here to enjoy the surroundings and also take advantage of the synthetic training track in case there is bad weather,” Sisterson told track publicity.
Plans call for Nyquist to resume training Wednesday morning, four days after his 3 1/4-length demolition job in the Florida Derby.
“We were very impressed with the way he did it,” Sisterson said. “It was very humid and he handled it well. (Jockey) Mario (Gutierrez) gave him a great ride.”
O’Neill spoke with Santa Anita’s Ed Golden Sunday.
“My crew said he looks great,” O’Neill said. “So far, so good. He’ll train at Keeneland and ship to Churchill about a week before the Derby.”
“You’re always surprised when your horse wins as easy as he did,” the horseman said of the Florida Derby. “But as quick as he broke and with an easy run to the first turn, we were very optimistic at that point.
“It unfolded perfectly, and 100 percent credit for that goes to Mario and Nyquist. Horses came to him, challenged him and definitely went at him. It was no pedestrian trip, but all that should help us down the road when there’s a full field in the Kentucky Derby.”
Gutierrez’s agent, Tom Knust, also commented on the dynamic performance at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s a great horse, Doug did a great job training him up to the race, and I thought Mario rode a great race,” Knust said. “You can’t ask for any more, that’s for sure.
“This next five weeks will be real exciting. Paul and Zillah Reddam are really good sportsmen. They had no problem going to Florida to run. Mohaymen is a great horse and probably had his excuses Saturday.”
Mohaymen suffered his first defeat as the 4-5 favorite in the Florida Derby, trudging home fourth after being rebuffed by Nyquist turning for home.
“Hopefully, he’ll make it to the Derby and they can face each other again,” Knust sportingly added.
All photos courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography.