Nyquist wins Derby
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Right until the end, they picked at Nyquist. Too slow. Not bred to run the 1 1\8-mile distance.
But those who believed in him - none more than trainer Doug O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam - felt that all the doubters missed the point. Nyquist deserved to be the Kentucky Derby favorite because he had answered every question asked of him as a racehorse.
And the undefeated colt answered the biggest one Saturday, winning the 142nd running of the Derby, the most coveted prize in American racing. He was the fourth straight favorite to win the race, generally thought of as difficult to pick because of the 20-horse field and the thin resumes of many contenders.
Nyquist held off a hard-charging Exaggerator, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his younger brother Kent. It's the fourth time Exaggerator has lost to Nyquist.
Gun Runner, trained by new Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, finished third after not racing since March 26.
The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will be in two weeks at Pimlico Race course in Baltimore.
The team of O'Neill, Reddam and jockey Mario Gutierrez previously won the Derby with I'll Have Another in 2012. He went on to win the Preakness, but O'Neill scratched him the morning with an injured tendon before Belmont Stakes, where he was an early 4-5 favorite to take the Triple Crown.
The fallout from that crushing disappointment could have split the partnership, but instead, it affirmed the loyalty between O'Neill and Reddam, who stood by his trainer through a spate of medication violations.
The Canadian businessman, who specializes in high-interest loans, bought Nyquist in early 2015 at the urging of O'Neill's brother, Dennis. Nyquist quickly rewarded the investment, winning five races as a 2-year-old, including the $2-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile. As a 3-year-old, he whipped his top rivals - Exaggerator in the San Vicente Stakes and Mohaymen in the Florida Derby.
Now he'll try to follow American Pharoah and become the second Triple Crown winner in a row after a 37-year drought. Seattle Slew and Affirmed did it back to back in 1977 and 1978.
Nyquist's toughness and versatility will certainly give his supporters plenty to dream on, even as his doubters question his pedigree to handle the 1½-mile Belmont Stakes.