• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Nyquist wins Kentucky Derby; quiets critics

JUST LOOK AT HIM NOW. Nyquist, far right in front, wasn’t getting much respect going into the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby. But after winning the race on Saturday, May 7, at Churchill Downs, he’s finally getting all the respect he deserves. (Photo by Wendy Wooley/EquiSportPhotos.com)

Nyquist came into the 142nd running of the $2,391,600 Kentucky Derby (G1) undefeated with seven straight wins. Yet, for some reason, he could not get any respect, as critics kept coming up with reasons why he just wasn’t good enough to win the Derby. The 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo also won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 31 and then was awarded the 2015 Eclipse award as champion 2-year-old. Yet, he still was not getting any respect. Then on April 2 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., he cruised to a win in the Florida Derby (G1) to earn his ticket to the Derby. But, still, he just was not getting the respect he deserved. The biggest knock according to critics was that he wasn’t going to be able to get the 1-1/4-mile Kentucky Derby distance. Well, on Saturday, May 7, at Churchill Downs, in front of 167,227 fans, the second-largest Derby crowd in history, Nyquist finally got the respect he deserved. Ridden by jockey Mario Gutierrez, Nyquist stalked the race leaders on the outside in third place before taking the lead near the top of the stretch and running off to a 1-1/4-length victory over Exaggerator, while Gun Runner finished third. “I feel really good for the horse,” said winning owner Paul Reddam of Redding Racing. “Because along the way the last year, he (Nyquist) has taken a lot of shots for whatever reason. And I think he proved all his critics wrong today. So, I’m really proud of him and the whole O’Neill team and Mario’s ride. It was just flawless from beginning to end.” Nyquist, who is by Uncle Mo-Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry, ran the 1-1/4-mile race on a fast track in 2:01.31. He remains undefeated with eight wins in eight career starts and earnings of $4,954,200. For the team of Gutierrez, Redding and winning trainer Doug O’Neill, it was their second Kentucky Derby win together. They also won in 2012 with I’ll Have Another. With the win, Nyquist also became the first undefeated Derby winner with eight victories since 1969, when Majestic Prince accomplished the same feat. Breaking from gate 13, Gutierrez guided Nyquist, the 2-to-1 favorite, three-wide by the first turn, placing him just outside of race leader Danzing Candy in second place, with Gun Runner close behind. Behind them Exaggerator, the second choice at 5-to-1, who was ridden by Kent Desormeaux and trained by Kent’s brother, Keith, broke from gate 11 and settled near the back of the 20-horse field in 15th place. Going down the back stretch, Danzing Candy held onto the lead, while Gun Runner moved in front of Nyqust, who was still sitting comfortably on the outside of the race leaders. Then, as the horses rounded the final turn and reached the top of the stretch, Nyquist passed Danzing Candy, who was tiring, and Gun Runner, to take a small lead. Meanwhile, behind them, Exaggerator began to move forward along the rail, saving ground as he worked his way forward. Coming down the lane, Nyquist continued on the lead, as Exaggerator worked his way outside and charged after him. But the day belonged to Nyquist as he crossed the line the winner by 1-1/4 lengths ahead of Exaggerator, with Gun Runner holding on for third. “The trip was amazing,” said Gutierrez. “We got a beautiful trip from start to end.” Added O’Neill, “He’s just a special horse. I mean, I think now it’s safe to say, Lava Man (whom O’Neill trained) is unbelievable and I’ll Have Another is unbelievable. But he’s (Nyquist) definitely the best horse I have ever been around. And, Johnny Garcia (exercise rider) gets on him every day, (and) he’s been saying for a while now that this horse is so strong and does everything so easy and, you know, he’s never tired. … It doesn’t seem like we have ever really gotten to the bottom of him. That’s very exciting about the future.” For Gutierrez, it was his second Derby win in only two starts. The last jockey to do that was Willie Simms in 1896 with Ben Brush and in 1898 with Plaudit. Nyquist now travels to Pimlico Racecourse near Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes (G1), the second jewel of the Triple Crown, on Saturday, May 21. On Friday, May 6, at Churchill Downs, in the 142nd running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), at Churchill Downs, Cathryn Sophia, with jockey Javier Castellano riding, took the lead at the top of the stretch and scored a 2-3/4 length win over Land Over Sea in front of a new record Oaks crowd of 124,589. The previous attendance record was 123,763, which was set in 2015. Finishing third was Lewis Bay, while race favorite, Rachel’s Valentina, finished sixth, and Weep No More, winner of the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on April 9, finished seventh. Cathryn Sophia, who is by Street Boss-Sheave, by Mineshaft, ran the 1-1/8th-mile race in 1:50.53. She now has five wins and $949,720 in earnings in six starts. Following her third-place finish in the 1-1/16th-mileAshland Stakes, her connections said they would not run their horse in the Kentucky Oaks. They were going to run her in the Eight Belles Stakes (G2), a shorter race at seven furlongs, instead. However, when Songbird, the 2015 Eclipse award champion 2-year-old filly who is arguably the best 3-year-old filly in the United States, withdrew from the race due to a fever, they decided to enter their horse in the Oaks. And, it paid off as Cathryn Sophia ran a great race. A possible next start for Cathryn Sophia is the Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 11. Winners of the other major stakes races at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby weekend… Friday, May 6 • La Troinne Stakes (G1): Curalina • Eight Belles Stakes (G2): Carina Mia • Turf Sprint Stakes (G3); Rocket Heat • Alysheba Stakes (G2): Majestic Harbor • Edgewood Stakes (G3): Catch a Glimpse Saturday, May 7 • Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2): Tepin • Churchill Downs Stakes (G2): Catalina Red • Humana Distaff Stakes (G1): Taris • American Turf Stakes (G2): Camelot Kitten • Pat Day Mile (G3): Sharp Azteca • Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (G1): Divisidero (Information gathered from Equibase.com, PedigreeQuery.com, and BloodHorse.com)

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