Nyquist tops list of Kentucky Derby contenders


Richard Rosenblatt

AP Racing Writer

He’s an Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old with five victories in five career races. What’s not to like about Nyquist?

Nothing so far, and that’s why the bay son of Uncle Mo opens at No. 1 on The Associated Press Top 10 list of Kentucky Derby contenders.

And he’s not even trained by Bob Baffert.

Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Nyquist is gearing up for his 3-year-old debut in the seven-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita on Saturday. On Sunday, he worked five furlongs in 59.38 seconds.

“He’s got so much class, so much raw ability,” Nyquist’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, said after the colt’s workout. “It’s hard to believe that he’s any more mature than last year, but he’s doing everything right and thriving on training; he’s doing super.”

Named for Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist, the colt is owned, trained and ridden by the same team that campaigned 2012 Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. J. Paul Reddam is the owner; Mario Gutierrez is the jockey.

Baffert, of course, will be heard from, too. The trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah has two 3-year-olds in the Top 10 — Mor Spirit at No. 3 and Collected at No. 7.

Mor Spirit came through with a 1 1/2 -length victory in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita over the weekend, and Baffert considers the horse his leading Derby prospect.

Trainer Keith Desormeaux also has two early contenders with No. 5 Swipe, the runner-up in the BC Juvenile, and No. 6 Exaggerator, winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot.

Unranked for now, it’s worth keeping tabs on Songbird. The talented filly easily won the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita, but owner Rick Porter said afterward he has no plans to take on the boys in the Derby.

A year ago, the AP’s Run for the Roses’ Top 10 started with Baffert’s Dortmund first and stablemate American Pharoah third. It was Pharoah, though, who stepped up and won the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes to become the first Triple Crown champion in 37 years.

The next set of Derby preps are the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California on Saturday and the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas next Monday.

A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Derby on May 7, and if more than that are entered, the field is determined by a points system from a 35-race Derby prep series.

Nyquist is the points leader with 30, followed by Mor Spirit (24) and Mohaymen (20).


Here’s our Top 10:

1. Nyquist (Doug O’Neill, trainer; Mario Gutierrez, jockey): Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old won all five races in ‘15. … Trainer, rider and owner (J. Paul Reddam) won 2012 Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another. … Sired by Uncle Mo … Next start: San Vicente, Santa Anita, Saturday. … Derby future odds: 9-1.

2. Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado): Also perfect at 4 for 4, including win in Holy Bull. … Won Remsen, Nashua as 2-year-old. … Gray son of Tapit purchased for $2.2 million by Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Stable. … Next start: Fountain of Youth, Gulfstream Park, Feb. 27. … Odds: 11-1.

3. Mor Spirit (Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens): Won Robert B. Lewis by 1 1/2 lengths in 3-year-old debut. …. Dynamic duo teams up for another Triple Crown run. They won Derby, Preakness with Silver Charm in ‘97. … Next start: San Felipe, Santa Anita, March 12. … Odds: 31-1.

4. Brody’s Cause (Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie): Won Breeders’ Futurity and ran third in the BC Juvenile. … Could be headed to Florida for next prep. … Next start: Tampa Bay Derby, Tampa Bay Downs, March 12. … Odds: 21-1.

5. Exaggerator (Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux): Won Delta Downs Jackpot, ran fourth in BC Juvenile. … Sired by two-time Horse of Year Curlin. … Next start: San Vicente. … Odds: 25-1.

6. Swipe (Keith Desormeaux, Victor Espinoza): Ran second in BC Juvenile. … One win in first seven starts, but has five seconds (four of them to Nyquist). … Sired by Birdstone. … Next start: Undecided. … Odds: 18-1.

7. Collected (Baffert, Martin Garcia): Won Sham in 3-year-old debut to attract attention. … Worked 7 furlongs in 1:25.40 at Santa Anita on Feb. 3. … Next start: Southwest, Oaklawn Park, Feb. 15. … Odds: 3-1 (mutuel field).

8. Greenpointcrusader (Dominic Schettino, Kent Desormeaux): Second in Holy Bull in 3-year-old debut. … Won Champagne, ran seventh as favorite in BC Juvenile. … Pointing toward Louisiana Derby on March 26 for final prep. … Next start: Undecided. … Odds: 28-1.

9. Sunny Ridge (Jason Servis, Manuel Franco): Won Withers after running second in Champagne and Delta Downs Jackpot. … Next start: Gotham, Aqueduct, March 5. … Odds: 83-1.

10. Flexibility (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr.): Ran fourth in Withers after win in Jerome at Big A, but still a contender. … Sired by Bluegrass Cat. … Next start: Gotham. … Odds 71-1.

Keep an eye on: Airoforce, Awesome Power, Mo Tom, Songbird, Suddenbreakingnews.

Richard Rosenblatt

AP Racing Writer

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