Only 2 Horses Could be American Pharoah like in 2016

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D.S. Williamson

April 15th, 2016


Nyquist winning the Florida Derby (Photo by Arron Haggart/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)

Are there any American Pharoah's this year?  It doesn't look like there are, but that doesn't mean that an American Pharoah type horse doesn't exist in this group of three-year-olds. Sure, looking back on it now, American Pharoah was a given to win the Triple Crown. But going into last year's Kentucky Derby, AP was only a 5/2 choice to win it.

Kentucky Derby Future Pool 4 ended with Nyquist as a 3 to 1 favorite. AP was a 5 to 1 chalk right before his Arkansas Derby romp. What are Nyquist's odds going to be on Derby Day?  Based on year's past, he could be around 2 to 1 unless a horse comes up and truly impresses, without any caveats, in this Saturday's Arkansas Derby.

Only 2 horses could end up as this year's American Pharoah on the Triple Crown Trail. I'm not saying that Nyquist or Exaggerator will be the next AP, I'm just saying that there's a chance that 1 of the 2 could be the next AP.
Nyquist - The likely 2 to 1 Derby chalk has a chance to be the next American Pharoah because of his ability to both coast on the lead or relax off of it. He went 4-wide in the BC Juvenile last fall while in 8th place. He had to work hard to just get the lead. His tractability makes him tough to overlook to win the Kentucky Derby. One potential problem is that he isn't nearly as well-bred for the rigors of the Triple Crown as American Pharoah was. Nyquist is sired by Uncle Mo and is out of a Forestry mare.

The difference between Nyquist and other horses is his grinding sort of style. He doesn't explode on the racetrack the way that I'll Have Another, Doug O'Neil's last Derby winner, did. He grabs the lead and then runs faster that he starts increasing the lead the closer that they get to the finish line.  Nyquist is more Seattle Slew than anything else. Check out Slew's Kentucky Derby win:
American Pharoah was like this too, but American Pharoah had a more devastating turn of foot. Both Slew and Nyquist strike me as front-running grinders in the sense that they grind their way to the front while relaxing all of the time. If Nyquist relaxes enough, and so far he's done that in every race, he could be tough in all three legs of the Triple Crown no matter his breeding.

Exaggerator - His best races have been run over the slop. But, right now, he has to be considered a serious contender for the Kentucky Derby. He also has everything needed in order to win the Triple Crown. His dad, Curlin, finished second in the Belmont Stakes to Rags to Riches and won the BC Classic. Exaggerator will get the distance. His move along the backstretch was absolutely breathtaking in the Santa Anita Derby. Was it flattered by the pace?  Sure, it was. But he's likely to get the same pace set up on the First Saturday in May. Trainer Keith Desormeaux has put a bottom into Exaggerator. The Derby will be his 10th lifetime race.

His style is reminiscent of I'll Have Another, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2012. Here's I'll Have Another's Derby win:
If not for a foot bruise a couple of a days before the Belmont Stakes, I'll Have Another almost certainly would have won the Triple Crown. Exgaerrator has the turn of foot, and the ability to make an elongated, continuous run, that could serve him very well on the Triple Crown trail.  Unlike I'll Have Another, Exatgerrator can also press the pace. That should give 3 time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Kent Desormeaux plenty of options in all 3 Triple Crown races.

After almost every single Derby prep, there are only 2 horses that I think have what it takes to be American Pharoah like in 2016. The undefeated Nyquist has the ability to grind away to a win on the lead, while Exaggerator has the ability to produce an elongated burst of speed that can take him to the finish line first.


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