Kentucky Derby king Nyquist worked four furlongs at Santa Anita Monday morning in 48.60 as he prepares for his first race since finishing third in the Preakness Stakes on May 21.
Under exercise rider Jonny Garcia, the son of Uncle Mo trained by Doug O’Neill for owners Paul and Zillah Reddam worked in company with Malware (50.20) and came back well after his 7 a.m. drill.
“He worked great, 48 and change and (galloped out) a two-minute lick from the wire to the half in under two minutes,” O’Neill said. “He went really well. We’re really happy with him. He’s cooling out great so we’re all smiling right now.
“It just felt right to have Jonny work him this morning. Mario (regular rider Mario Gutierrez) is here, but Jonny knows him really well, as does Mario.”
As to where and when Nyquist returns to the races, O’Neill is playing it close to the vest.
“I’m going to meet with Paul on Wednesday, so we should know more Thursday. You can circle a race like the (Kentucky) Derby when you’re heading that way, but that’s not the case now. You’re at a point where you’re going to run him when he’s right.
“When you say a specific race and it doesn’t work out, there is a lot of second-guessing, so I don’t know if my stress level can handle being painted in a corner. We’ll let the horse tell us and hopefully it will be soon.”
A YEAR LATER, VICTOR GETS THE SPOILS
What a difference a year makes.
At this time in 2015, Victor Espinoza was basking in the glow of piloting American Pharoah to the first Triple Crown victory in 37 years. Everybody wanted a piece of him.
Today, although he looks forward to his role as the regular rider of champions California Chrome and Stellar Wind, it’s relatively business as usual for the affable 44-year-old jockey.
Victor, who by a vote of his peers, won this year’s Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, is taking time to smell the roses, and not at Churchill Downs.
“Things have settled down for me now,” Espinoza said. “I have more time for myself. I’m doing things I’ve wanted to do that I couldn’t do before. The last two years were intense, and now I have more free time for myself.
“Besides working out and spending time with my favorite charity, City of Hope, the weather’s been good so I’ve relaxed at the beach and spent three days in Kentucky where I saw American Pharoah (at Coolmore America Ashford Stud, where he stands for $200,000).
“I also visited Old Friends Farm and saw Silver Charm and other Kentucky Derby champions. I spent pretty much the whole day there.
“American Pharoah looks great, amazing.”
Asked if the 2015 Horse of the Year recognized him, Espinoza laughed and said, “I have no idea. I have no clue. But it was fun.” Now it’s back to business.
“We had a lot of obligations outside of racing that took some business away,” noted Espinoza’s agent, Brian Beach. “We’ve slowed some of that down a little, but not completely. During the past two years, Victor has been a good ambassador for racing, but now it’s time to be a little selfish and get things back to normal.
“Victor went to New York last night but he’ll be at Del Mar a week before the meet starts to work horses. We’ll concentrate on the second half of the year.”
Continued Espinoza: “The trip to Kentucky was something I wanted to do and it was good to hang out with all the old-time horses, especially at Old Friends Farm. It’s amazing to see how they look now compared to their prime when they won the Kentucky Derby.”
Old Friends Farm in Lexington recently was named the official charity beneficiary of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, in collaboration with Maker’s Mark
“I’m happy to be back now and getting ready for Del Mar,” Espinoza said. “I’m working hard for that meet. I’m always lucky there. I’m planning to win a lot of races.”
HALL OF FAME JOCKEYS TO SIGN ONE-OF-A-KIND POSTER NEXT SUNDAY
On closing day next Sunday, July 10, Hall of Fame jockeys Gary Stevens and Mike Smith will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to sign one-of-a-kind posters featuring three-time champion mare Beholder and the undefeated filly Songbird.
Signings will take place in the shaded saddling enclosure. Families are invited to bring the kids, as Santa Anita mascots, Winnie and Lucky, will be on-hand to greet fans and offer Beholder peppermints, her favorite treat.
FINISH LINES: Whether 2015 Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund is better than ever remains to be seen, but at a Clydesdale-esque1,400 pounds, he assuredly is bigger than ever. “I weighed him the other day and he was 1,400,” said Bob Baffert, who trains the son of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown for Kaleem Shah. “Once I get him down to 1,380, he’ll be good to go.” Seriously, Baffert plans to run Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap on July 23, the same race 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome and 2015 Kentucky Derby runner-up Firing Line are being pointed to . . . Triple Bend Stakes winner Lord Nelson worked three furlongs for Baffert Monday in 36.40 . . . Her Emmynency, Grade I Queen Elizabeth II winner at Keeneland last October, worked six furlongs in 1:15 for Kristin Mulhall . . . With four days left in the Spring Meet, Rafael Bejarano holds a 42-37 lead over runner-up Flavien Prat in the jockey standings, while Phil D’Amato is pretty much down to his “magic number” en route his second straight Santa Anita training title with a 23-15 lead over late-charging Baffert . . . Hector Palma and a band of merry well-wishers celebrated the trainer’s 79th birthday this morning at Clockers’ Corner with cake, coffee and good cheer. Palma has been training since 1971 and was the groom for the great Native Diver trained by Buster Millerick . . . Santa Anita’s Spring Meet closes with a three-day week next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 10. Simulcast wagering will be offered on Thursday, when there is free Grandstand Admission and free grandstand parking that day and on Friday, July 8.
Santa Anita Park