Nyquist continues to shine but Speed ratings illustrate a challenge

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 4th, 2016

Nyquist rolled to an easy victory in Saturday’s Florida Derby (G1) and is as tough as nails – it’s easy to admire the grit displayed winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and FrontRunner (G1) last season and the classy colt will try as hard as he can every time.

Along with Mohaymen, Nyquist entered the Florida Derby unbeaten and from all accounts I’ve seen, it was the first time unbeaten & top-ranked Kentucky Derby contenders from the East and West Coast have squared off in the final major prep race.

Mohaymen didn’t perform up to expectations, weakening to fourth as the 4-5 favorite in the Florida Derby stretch, and I’ll analyze the performances of both runners in my Kentucky Derby Report Wednesday.

But I’ll highlight a characteristic of Nyquist entering the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby on May 7: lower BRIS Speed ratings in two-turn races than sprints.

Despite dominating the Florida Derby, Nyquist didn’t receive stellar Speed ratings for the 3 ¼-length decision, a 97 BRIS Speed and a 94 Beyer Speed figure. Those numbers have generated consternation from Nyquist fans on social media and are significantly lower than his 2016 debut, the 7-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita where he registered a 103 BRIS and 101 Beyer.

In terms of strictly BRIS numbers, Nyquist showed a similar trend at age 2, posting a 102 Speed rating winning the 6 ½-furlong Best Pal (G2) and lower numbers for the Juvenile (97) and FrontRunner (96) at two turns.

Since the advent of BRIS Speed ratings in 1990, no Kentucky Derby winner has recorded higher numbers in sprints than routes in both their 2-year-old and 3-year-old seasons before arriving at Churchill Downs.

Granted, it’s a small sample size (only seven Kentucky Derby winners competed in a one-turn race at age 3 since 1990) since Speed figs weren’t around decades ago when Kentucky Derby prospects raced more often, typically opening the sophomore campaign in a sprint before stretching out to 2-turns for multiple preps.

But it remains a challenge for Nyquist as he stretches out an extra furlong because a 97 BRIS Speed rating in the Kentucky Derby probably won't be good enough.

Nyquist photo courtesy of Kenny Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography