Two leading protagonists on the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) trail – surefire champion Nyquist and Mor Spirit – continued to gear up at Santa Anita Sunday for their seasonal reappearances.

Nyquist, who extended his unbeaten sequence to five in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), worked six furlongs in 1:14. The Doug O’Neill pupil was posting his fourth move since his Eclipse Award-clinching victory at Keeneland October 31.

According to Santa Anita clocker Dane Nelson, Nyquist recorded splits of :24.40, :47.60 and 1:00.20 on the fast main track.

“He worked great -- he went super,” O’Neill summed up. “He went out seven-eighths in 1:28 and change.”

O’Neill has set his sights on a two-prep schedule for Nyquist en route to the first Saturday in May. After a return in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) at Santa Anita February 15, the Uncle Mo colt will get his final prep in the April 2 Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.

Nyquist was expected to ship up north to train over Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta, thus avoiding the rainy El Nino pattern that’s liable to produce wet tracks at Santa Anita. But those plans may have changed. The horseman told Millie Ball Sunday that for now, “weather permitting,” Nyquist is staying in his Santa Anita barn. Of course, plans are fluid, so we’ll have to stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the Bob Baffert-trained Mor Spirit negotiated five-eighths in company. With Hall of Famer Gary Stevens aboard, Mor Spirit clocked 1:00.60, and workmate Coach Q was caught in 1:02.

Mor Spirit, runner-up to Eclipse finalist Airoforce two starts back in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, rebounded in style in the December 19 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1). Baffert has discussed how his more forwardly placed trip in the Churchill slop didn’t suit him as well. His preferred style is patient handling, and making one run from off the pace.

By Eskendereya, the 2010 Kentucky Derby favorite who missed his chance at destiny after a career-ending injury, Mor Spirit could reappear in the February 6 Robert B. Lewis (G3). Note that stablemate Toews on Ice, second to Mor Spirit at Los Alamitos, is already ticketed for the Lewis.

Nyquist photo courtesy of, and copyright, Breeders' Cup Ltd.

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