When the dust settled on the first Saturday in May many bettors where smiling. After all Nyquist was bet down to 2-1 favoritism, and his $6.60 payout to win was lower than that of American Pharoah who paid $7.80 the year before. Most of the handicapping public were not at all surprised with how the race turned out, ourselves included. However, as right as we were in picking Nyquist to win the Kentucky Derby, for most of his career we have been wrong about him. Yes we picked Nyquist to win, but we didn’t really pick him to win because we thought he was a great horse. We picked him to win because we felt he was the best of a bad bunch. He certainly is the best of the bunch, but his performance served notice that he’s much better than what we thought.
Going into the Kentucky Derby I made statements saying if Nyqusit could just be adequate at the mile and one quarter then it would be good enough to get the job done. However, that didn’t turn out to be true. Nyqusit basically had to excel at the distance as he ran his fastest two turn beyer speed figure by far, and if he hadn’t have done so Exaggerator would have been wearing the roses on Saturday. In fact, if you would have told me before the race Exaggerator would run the race he did on Kentucky Derby day I would have told you he would have defeated Nyquist. However, he didn’t. Nyquist did get a great trip, but with his running style and versatility he will most likely get a great trip each and every time he runs a race. His Kentucky Derby effort ranks right up there with the past few winners we’ve seen in recent years.
Perhaps the biggest crime in all of the doubt was that it was completely unwarranted. Nyquist had done nothing wrong. He was a perfect 7 for 7, a Breeders’ Cup winner, an Eclipse Award winner, a winner at four different race tracks, and an emphatic winner at a mile and one eighth. Why in the world did we ever doubt him so much? Thankfully we came to our senses in time to pick him to win the big one, but how did we not think he would win the Florida Derby or Breeders’ Cup Juvenile? Looking back now it borders on insanity! Sometimes the obsession to beat the favorite can cloud a person’s judgement, and this could have very well been the case with this horse along the way.
With the Kentucky Derby in the bag, talk of back-to-back Triple Crown winners have filled the air in horse racing circles. Can it be done? It very well could be with one big aspect being the way Nyquist has been trained leading up to the Triple Crown races. It’s entirely possible that Nyquist could improve off his Kentucky Derby winning effort, and it looks as though on paper he’s been lightly campaigned this year with all three Triple Crown races in mind. The mile and one half Belmont Stakes will be a daunting task, but also one that he could end up being fairly fresh for, or at least as fresh as one can be when running three races in five weeks. He’ll still have to accomplish quite a freakish feat to become racing thirteenth Triple Crown winner, but his training and race schedule will help him in a big way.
Of course to get to the Belmont Stakes you first must win the Preakness Stakes. History is certainly on his side when it comes to the Preakness, but Exaggerator looms large in this race. With the race looking to have plenty of early speed at this point, Exaggerator will come running. If he can get a little cleaner trip this time he could turn the tables on Nyquist. You also must worry about the new shooter Stradivari from the Todd Pletcher barn, who has been nothing short of brilliant in his last two starts. The Preakness will not be a walk over for Nyquist as he will need another big performance to get the job done.
Now we all have gained the respect we should have had for Nyquist leading up to the Kentucky Derby. I shouldn’t say “all” because some already did, but the vast majority weren’t sold on him at all or just picked him on top because they didn’t like anyone else in the race. It’s certinaly not to the point where we can crown him as a Triple Crown winner, but the idea of it isn’t all that impossible now as it was before his Kentucky Derby triumph. This now pefect 8 for 8 horse could become one we are talking about for quite some time.