Nyquist takes an extra day or two off due to bloodwork picture

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April 7th, 2016

Unbeaten Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite Nyquist, who shipped into Keeneland Sunday, has a “slightly elevated” white blood cell count that’s led Team O’Neill to give him an extra couple of days in the barn.

Having just dominated Saturday’s Florida Derby (G1) prior to his travel, Nyquist wasn’t expected to resume training until Wednesday. That initial plan was then pushed to Thursday, and now possibly Friday.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has kept fans informed via Facebook, with the news about the bloodwork posted Wednesday night:

Just a quick update on Nyquist. He will more than likely go back to the race track on Friday or Saturday. 

Nyquist is happy, has a great appetite (as you can see by this video), his temperature is normal, but through blood work we found he has a slightly elevated white count. So we will walk Nyquist over the next couple days, until his blood work returns to normal.

Although any bloodwork irregularity is unwelcome in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby, assistant trainer Jack Sisterson wanted to offer a reassuring update at Keeneland Thursday morning.

Sisterson commented that shipping itself can be a factor in raising the white blood count.

“We have a standard routine of taking the blood and you know, if it wasn’t the standard routine, we wouldn’t have taken the blood because physically and mentally how he was acting, there was no reason to do it,” Sisterson told the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Alicia Wincze Hughes.

“But that’s Doug’s routine, just staying on top of things. If he were to leave some feed or had a temperature, that would make us take the blood.

“But he never showed any signs of that. We’re all happy with him. He hasn’t missed a beat.”

While working to allay concerns that the bloodwork doesn’t necessarily imply the presence of an illness, Team O’Neill nonetheless is wise to take their time with the champion. It’s not as if he’s going to lose fitness by getting a couple of extra days off. And if there were something brewing under the surface, you’d run a risk of making it worse by having him go out and train.

So for now, it’s a watching brief. If Nyquist goes back to the track Friday, his bloodwork is perfect, and he trains like his old self for the next week, this will be no more than a footnote in his Derby odyssey.

Fingers crossed that’s all it is…

Update: Another O'Neill assistant, Leandro Mora at Santa Anita, has likewise relayed the positive vibes. 

"I spoke with Jack (Sisterson), and he said the horse ate well and is very happy in his stall, like nothing is going on, so that’s a great sign," Mora told Santa Anita's Ed Golden.


Photo of Nyquist touring the barn upon his arrival at Keeneland Sunday, courtesy of Coady Photography.