Dissecting The Derby: Nyquist

Dissecting The Derby: Nyquist

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - No race is tougher to ferret out than the Kentucky Derby, which at times can seem as perplexing 30 minutes before post time as it is 30 days before the run for the roses.

It can look so easy after the fact, so here we helpfully tell you in advance why the winner prevails.

Of course we do it for every horse in the field -- as well as explaining why you can't possibly cash a ticket betting that horse.

So let us do the detective work as we case out the Kentucky Derby.

NYQUIST (Post Position 13; Odds 3-1)
Owner: Reddam Racing
Trainer: Doug O'Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Record: 7—7-0-0
Earnings: $3,322,600
Sire-dam: Uncle Mo-Seeking Gabrielle
Fastest Bris speed figure: 103
Fastest Beyer speed figure: 101, San Vicente
Last race: Won Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park

The case for Nyquist
At 7 for 7, he keeps proving the doubters wrong. One of his easiest victories was shipping cross-country and cruising home to a 3 1/4-length romp in the Florida Derby, in the process manhandling Mohaymen - who had been the Kentucky Derby favorite until suffering his first defeat in the race. As importantly, he finished quite well, his final eighth-mile going in 12.73 seconds and three-eighths in 37.72, according to @DerbyContenders, over a track described as heavy after two rainstorms. Doug O'Neill knows how to train a Derby winner, teaming with Mario Gutierrez and owner Paul Reddam to win in 2012 with I'll Have Another. And it looks like they may indeed have just that. He's a cinch under local sports-radio host Drew Deener's "kick yourself" theory: What horse would you kick yourself the most if you didn't bet? They say to never bet a horse to do something it hasn't done before; well, this horse has never lost. Trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Louisiana Derby with Gun Runner and Arkansas Derby with Creator, candidly says neither of those two budding stars has run a race to date that could beat Nyquist if the status quo holds.

The case against Nyquist
The Florida Derby was run over a surface that a lot of horses just didn't like, so it wasn't a completely fair test. Uncle Mo was a miler who never won past 1 1/16 miles (admittedly with limited opportunity), and Nyquist's broodmare sire is the fast Forestry, who certainly wasn't a "stayer." And with Danzing Candy in there, he's going to have company up front. The fact that his highest speed figure came in the seven-furlong San Vicente is all you need to know. (And his second-fastest is a 102 in Del Mar's 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal in his second start. In this era of 20-horse Derbys, no favorite is going to win four years in a row. Racing gods won't cotton to a Derby winner named for a Canadian hockey player who, showing his racing knowledge is on ice, referred to the Derby as a "tournament."

Smarty Jones in 2004 was the last horse to win the Derby out of Post 13; before that it was Forward Pass in 1968 (and he was moved up on the disqualification of Dancer's Image for a medication violation. The last undefeated 2-year-old champion to win the Derby was Seattle Slew in 1977. Street Sense (2006-2007) remains the only horse to pull off the Breeders' Cup Juvenile-Derby parlay. The Florida Derby has produced four Kentucky Derby winners since 2001, all also prevailing at Gulfstream Park, the last being Orb in 2013.

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