AP Racing Writer
Ready, set, here comes Nyquist.
The unbeaten colt makes his much-anticipated 3-year-old debut in the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on Monday, capping off a holiday weekend of four Kentucky Derby prep races.
“We’re pumped,” trainer Doug O’Neill said Thursday.
Nyquist has won all five of his races, and comes into the 7-furlong San Vicente as a leading Derby contender. The race is not among the 35 designated preps carrying points that determine the field for the Derby, but Nyquist is ready to run and currently leads the pack with 30 points.
The Derby preps worth points are Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields and Monday’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs is a non-scoring prep on Saturday.
Exaggerator, winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot, also is set for his 3-year-old debut in the San Vicente.
Nyquist will be making his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last October and being voted 2-year-old male champion.
“I think just getting him back to competition is mandatory, obviously, so we’re all excited and pumped the way he’s coming into it,” O’Neill said. “The bottom line is you can’t say too much until he runs the race. Hopefully, he runs big.”
Team Nyquist is quite familiar with the Triple Crown trail. O’Neill, jockey Mario Gutierrez and owner J. Paul Reddam won the 2012 Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another, but the horse was scratched with an injury, then retired, a day before the Belmont Stakes.
Exaggerator, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother Kent, ran fourth in the BC Juvenile before winning at Delta Downs three weeks later. Also expected to run in what looks like a small field is Electrifying, one of seven horses nominated to the race by Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert.
Derby points for the El Camino Real Derby and Southwest are 10 for first, four for second, two for third and one for fourth. Next week, the point totals jump to 50-20-10-5 starting with the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 20.
A look at this weekend’s other Derby-related races:
SAM F. DAVIS STAKES (Saturday)
A field of seven is lined up for this non-scoring race at Tampa Bay Downs at 1 1/16 miles.
The morning-line favorites are Destin at 3-1 and Gettysburg at 5-2, both trained by Todd Pletcher.
Gettysburg, with Javier Castellano riding, comes into the race off a front-running maiden win last month at Gulfstream Park.
Also entered are Morning Fire, Rafting, Whatawonderflworld, Awesome Slate and No More Chillin.
EL CAMINO REAL DERBY (Saturday)
O’Neill could have himself another Derby prospect if 2-1 favorite Frank Conversation comes through in the 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby.
“If he wins Saturday, he will definitely be pointed toward the Kentucky Derby,” O’Neill said.
A large field of 14 horses is entered, including 7-2 second choice Kasseopia and 9-2 third choice Mr. Coker.
The race is worth 10 Derby points for the winner, four for second, two for third and one for fourth.
SOUTHWEST STAKES (Monday)
A field of 14 has been entered for the 1 1/16-mile Southwest, including Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert’s Collected and the top four finishers from the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn on Jan. 18 — Discreetness, Gordy Florida, Synchrony and Luna de Loco.
Also entered were American Dubai, Bird of Trey, Cutacorner, Siding Spring, Suddenbreakingnews, Torrontes, War Stroll, Whitmore and Z Royal.
Collected comes into the race off a victory in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut. He will be ridden by Martin Garcia.
Baffert is looking for his fifth Southwest win since 2010.