Nyquist takes in jog around Old Hilltop
Nyquist returned to the track Wednesday morning for the first time since scoring an impressive triumph in last Saturday's Kentucky Derby (G1), acquainting himself with the Pimlico racing surface during a once-around jog in the company of a pony.
Nyquist, who is undefeated in eight career starts, is slated to continue his Triple Crown quest in the 141st Preakness on May 21.
"Nyquist jogged great this morning. He continues to put big smiles on all of the guys' faces in the barn," said trainer Doug O'Neill's assistant Jack Sisterson, who supervised the morning exercise atop the pony that escorted Nyquist during his leisurely jog.
Nyquist, who arrived at Pimlico from Churchill Downs Monday, went to the track at 8:30 a.m. (EDT) following the renovation break. The son of Uncle Mo was ridden by Amir Cedeno, who subbed for regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia. Garcia is scheduled to reunite with the Derby winner Thursday morning (8:30) for a planned twice-around jog.
"We just wanted to see him move efficiently, and he did everything and more that we wanted to see this morning," Sisterson said. "It's like our own little training center. It's great. It's quiet out there. Our horses out there had their ears pricked taking it all in. It was really nice out there."
The first Preakness candidate on the grounds, Nyquist was followed on the track Wednesday morning by Land Over Sea, the runner-up in last Friday's Kentucky Oaks (G1) who is being pointed to the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for three-year-old fillies on May 20.
"She did great also. We're very pleased with the way she came out of the Oaks," Sisterson said.
O'Neill, who returned to his Southern California base last Sunday to check on his stable, is scheduled to be at Pimlico Thursday morning to oversee Nyquist's morning exercise.
O'Neill, owner J. Paul Reddam and jockey Mario Gutierrez teamed for a 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness double with I'll Have Another, who was also shipped to Pimlico on the Monday following the first leg of the Triple Crown.
"It's great having the experience of having the success with I'll Have Another. It just makes you wake up every morning wanting it that much more," Sisterson said. "We've slightly changed a few things with Nyquist's training regime. We galloped I'll Have Another every day, where with Nyquist we jog him one day and gallop him the other day."
After Nyquist was bathed, cooled out and returned to Stall 24 in Barn D, Sisterson expressed pleasure with the Preakness candidate's post-Derby condition.
"Moving forward, we're optimistic. Our main concern is keeping him happy and healthy," Sisterson said. "He's shown us every day that he's doing that."
In other Preakness news:
Third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Gun Runner returned to the track Wednesday for the first time since Saturday's Run for the Roses, galloping under exercise rider Carlos Rosas at Churchill Downs.
"I am very happy with how he went this morning," trainer Steve Asmussen said.
Asmussen said he will have six horses for stakes Preakness weekend, but with regard to the Preakness for Gun Runner, the 2016 Hall of Fame electee said, "No decision will be made immediately."
Dale Romans-trained Cherry Wine, unraced since a third-place finish in the Blue Grass (G1), galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill Wednesday under Faustino Aguilar. The Romans-trained Brody's Cause returned to the Churchill track for the first time since his seventh-place Derby finish, galloping two miles under Miguel Garcia.
Mark Casse-trained Fellowship galloped a mile at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Brian O'Leary. It was the first day on track for Fellowship since his fourth-place finish in Saturday's Pat Day Mile (G3).
Norm Casse, assistant to his father, said Fellowship probably would ship to Pimlico Monday afternoon as part of the barn's 12-horse contingent for Preakness weekend races.
Dazzling Gem is slated to ship from Churchill to Pimlico next Wednesday after trainer Brad Cox decided not to enter the son of Misremembered in Saturday's Peter Pan (G2) at Belmont.
After Dazzling Gem jogged a mile and galloped a mile Wednesday, Cox said Dazzling Gem will run in either the Preakness or the $100,000 Sir Barton, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for three-year-olds on the undercard.
Cox said Dazzling Gem is scheduled to work Saturday or Sunday but noted the drill would not be the final determining factor as to which race he goes in.
"I want to see who is in the Preakness and what the owner wants to do," said Cox, who trains the fourth-place Arkansas Derby finisher for Steve Landers Racing.
(Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)