Lady and The Track | April 8, 2020

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Can Nyquist Buck History To Win Kentucky Derby?

Can Nyquist Buck History To Win Kentucky Derby?: Nyquist returned to the races with a flourish in Monday’s San Vicente. He beat a legitimate horse in Exaggerator, and he did it completing the seven-furlong distance in a blistering 1.20.71. What is more incredible is that he came home in 12.15 seconds, after running his first two quarters in 22.56 and 22.37, respectively.

Despite his impressive victory, I still don’t endorse him as a top Kentucky Derby prospect. How is this possible, you may ask? How could I be so impressed with his performance, yet disregard him as a Kentucky Derby prospect? The answer is obvious and simple….. his prep schedule.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has mapped out a plan that only involves two prep, which in and of itself is not a problem. The issue lies with the timing, travel, and distance progression. Currently, Nyquist is being pointed to the Florida Derby which is run at nine furlongs, at Gulfstream Park. The race is run on April 2nd, which is over six weeks. Then, after the Florida Derby, he has five more weeks before he ships to Kentucky to run in the Kentucky Derby, at 10 furlongs.

In the San Vicente we saw that Nyquist is fast and that he seems to have progressed well from age two to three. That isn’t enough to win the Kentucky Derby. You need a solid foundation and he won’t have one. He will be lightly raced and heavily traveled. Doug O’Neill did manage to get I’ll Have Another to the Kentucky in top form off of two preps, but remember, both of those were in California, both were two turns, and his final was only 4 weeks away from the Kentucky Derby. Do you see the difference?

In the Kentucky Derby Nyquist will be facing horses who have gotten their fitness from racing, not just slow and steady works in the morning. Mohaymen, a top Kentucky Derby prospect who is also unbeaten, will have three preps with all of them coming at Gulfstream. The progression will be steady (8.5 furlongs, 8.5 furlongs, 9 furlongs) with 4 weeks between the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, then 5 weeks from the Fountain of Youth to the Florida Derby.

So, do I take issue with Nyquist’s talent? No, he is an incredibly talented horse. In fact, I don’t take issue with him at all. I simply don’t believe his prep schedule is conducive to getting him ready for a top effort in the Kentucky Derby, and history supports my theory.


Undefeated champion Nyquist, winner of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland Nov. 1 and victorious Monday in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) in his 3-year-old debut, tops the list of bonus eligibles in the Florida Derby with more than $1.7 million in earnings and three Grade 1 victories. Photo: Coglianese