After capturing his second Kentucky Derby in five years, trainer Doug O’Neill said of Nyquist:
“He’s a remarkable athlete…you put him in company and he’s just a Ferrari.”
That pretty much sums up Nyquist.
Now unbeaten in eight starts, Nyquist used his natural speed to establish positioning behind pacesetter Danzing Candy, who flashed forward to establish fast early splits in :22.58, :45.72 and 1:10.40.
Gun Runner moved along Nyquist’s inside to take the lead nearing the completion of the far turn, but the advantage was short-lived. Jockey Mario Gutierrez, who also guided 2012 Derby winner I’ll Have Another for owner Paul Reddam and O’Neill, was locked and loaded as Nyquist accelerated wide into the straightaway full of run.
He was traveling so fast it appeared Nyquist couldn’t help but go wide.
The 2-year-old champion easily dismissed Gun Runner in upper stretch, opening a commanding lead with a sixteenth of a mile remaining, and Nyquist comfortably proved best by 1 ¼ lengths as Exaggerator rallied belatedly to be a non-threatening second.
From the first crop of sensational leading freshman sire Uncle Mo, the Kentucky-bred Nyquist finished up 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.31, registering the fastest final time since 2003 winner Funny Cide (2:01.13).
With the $1,631,600 payday, Nyquist has now earned $4,714,200. He was favored at 2.30-1 over 19 rivals, returning a $6.60 win mutuel, and figures to be an odds-on choice two weeks later as he pursues the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico.
Exaggerator deserves credit for a strong performance, closing boldly from 15th in the early stages, and Gun Runner performed admirably to save third after chasing fast early fractions.
But Nyquist was the star of the show.
Doubters questioning his affinity for the 1 ¼-mile distance were left shaking their heads after the brilliant performance. Nyquist had established himself as the unquestioned leader of the 3-year-old division entering the Kentucky Derby and continued to build his fabulous resume in front of a crowd of 167,227 people.
Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography