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Nyquist On to Baltimore After Kentucky Derby Score

I wrote last week that the strength of the 3-year-old division was based in Southern California. Then, as if on cue, Nyquist and Exaggerator ran 1-2 in a formful Kentucky Derby.

In fact, for the first time in the pari-mutuel history of the Kentucky Derby, the first four favorites in the betting finished in that order.

Southern California-based horses have won four of the past five Kentucky Derbies: I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015) and Nyquist.

If Nyquist can win the Preakness on May 21, he would set up the third straight Belmont Stakes with the Triple Crown on the line. That kind of excitement is great for the sport.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has pushed all the right buttons with Nyquist. Not only is he undefeated in eight career starts, but he also won a $1 million bonus in the Florida Derby for his owner, J. Paul Reddam.

And his light schedule of two Kentucky Derby prep races means Nyquist is a relatively fresh horse for the next leg of the Triple Crown.

It looks as if only three other Derby starters are confirmed for Pimlico: Exaggerator, Suddenbreakingnews and Lani. Gun Runner, owned locally by the Winchell family, is sitting on the fence.

Gun Runner ran third in the Derby off a six-week layoff from winning the Louisiana Derby. If anything, he could be even tighter after the Derby and improve.

I have the feeling Exaggerator, while a game second, could have gone around the oval again with Nyquist and not passed him. I would prefer to see him skip the Preakness and freshen up for the Belmont Stakes.

The Pimlico racing office listed these new shooters as Preakness possibles: Awesome Speed, Cherry Wine, Collected, Dazzling Gem, Fellowship, Laoban, Stradivari and Uncle Lino.

From that list, the horse that jumps off the page at me is Stradivari. He has won his past two starts by 11 and 14 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Speaking of Pletcher, after Destin and Outwork lost, his Derby record dropped to 1-for-45. Despite a Hall of Fame career, Pletcher has only one Derby win with Super Saver in 2010. Most trainers would love to have 45 nice 3-year-olds over the years, but it must be aggravating to Pletcher.

Even though this likely field has a lot of speed horses in it, Nyquist showed in the Derby he can be rated.

When Danzing Candy zoomed out to a 45 3/5 half mile, jockey Mario Gutierrez placed Nyquist exactly where he wanted, third on the outside, about five lengths off the pace.

They were still going fast, but the key was Nyquist ran relaxed. When horses are relaxed, they can handle fast fractions because that might be their natural cruising speed.


Two free Preakness handicapping seminars will be May 20:

• At the Fiesta Henderson race book, Jerry Jacovitz of the Jerry J’s Power Page and Ralph Siraco, host of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show, will talk at 1 p.m.

• At the South Point race book, John Kelly of, Patrick McQuiggan, house handicapper at the South Point, and Siraco will talk at 6 p.m.

-by Richard Eng/



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