O’Neill ‘couldn’t be happier’ as Nyquist breezes in 1:01 4/5

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April 23rd, 2016

Unbeaten 2-year-old champion Nyquist, the expected prohibitive favorite for the Kentucky Derby, recorded his penultimate workout on Saturday morning at Keeneland, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 4/5. Exercise rider Jonny Garcia was up and Nyquist worked in company with Grade 1-winning stablemate Ralis.

Clockers caught his splits in :12, :23 4/5, and :35 4/5, with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:18.

"He's fit and ready so we're just strictly working for maintenance," O'Neill said. "We told Jonny '1:01 and change,' and the clockers had him at 1:01 4/5. So that's pretty good.

“We got him 11 & change the last eighth (of a mile). That’s a really good piece of work.”

Seven-for-seven overall, Nyquist will enter the Kentucky Derby off a convincing 3 ¼-length victory in the April 2 Florida Derby (G1) on April 2. The bay son of leading freshman sire Uncle Mo has earned $3,322,920.

“He looks so well, he’s really thriving on the training and he’s loving Kentucky,” O’Neill said. “Couldn’t be happier with the way he’s acting and looking.

“He’s a special horse for sure.”

Nyquist will breeze once more at Keeneland next Saturday, April 30, and is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs the following day (May 1). He’ll just gallop under the Twin Spires and O’Neill said they’ll likely bypass the 8:30 training window at Churchill reserved for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses.

“You’ve got to take him out early, he religiously goes out at 7 (a.m.) every day,” O’Neill said. “If you take him out much later, he’ll start to get upset. He doesn’t like to see everyone else going to train before him.

“I’ll do the 7 a.m. window (at Churchill Downs), you’ve got to keep him happy and keep him in his routine.”

Owned by Reddam Racing, Nyquist will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez in the Kentucky Derby. These are the same owner/trainer/jockey connections of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another.

A four-time Grade 1 winner, including last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland, Nyquist went faster than his previous work, a five-furlong move in 1:02 3/5 on April 15. O’Neill said he’ll breeze five furlongs again next week.

The trainer was asked what he’ll be looking for in Nyquist’s final workout.

“I think 1:01 & change seems to be like a magic number. Just want to see him finishing up (well).”

A large crowd gathered at the barn, and followed Nyquist to the track for his workout, but the colt takes everything in stride like a professional. O’Neill was asked about his calm demeanor at the barn.

“He is (relaxed),” O’Neill said. “He’s a horse who sleeps a lot in the stall, he really takes care of himself. He reserves his energy for when he needs it out on the track."

The conditioner was asked to assess the Kentucky Derby competition.

“It looks like you have a lot of closers, which is good for us,” O’Neill said. “Outwork, the other Uncle Mo of Todd Pletcher’s, looks very similar to Nyquist with his (front-running) style. And Danzing Candy has a lot of speed. That’s my little bit of brief handicapping, it looks like us three will be forwardly-placed. A lot of horses look like they want to be behind us.”

Photos: Nqyuist on track (Photo 1); Nyquist breezing to the outside of Ralis (Photo 2); Doug O'Neill (Photo 3); Nyquist leaving track (Photo 4); and Nyquist bath (Photo 5)