It wasn’t ‘worst case scenario’ for Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist but he won’t be going to the Belmont Stakes. According to trainer Doug O’Neill his horse is suffering from a high white blood cell count which is indicative of some sort of infection.
Nyquist’s temperature was high on Sunday and O’Neill decided not to ship him to Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course–site of the Preakness–as planned. The idea was to wait and see if it subsided and on Monday it did. Although Nyquist’s temperature was normal on Monday (which is 100.3 degrees for a horse) it was back up to 101.2 by mid-morning on Tuesday. It was at that time that O’Neill and Reddam Racing made the decision to ‘pull the plug’ on Nyquist’s Belmont plans. The current illness is reportedly the same issue that impacted Nyquist immediately after his victory in the Florida Derby.
The plan now is to treat Nyquist at Pimlico and when he’s well enough to travel ship him home to California for a little rest. Assistant Trainer Jack Sisterson explained the situation: “Doug wanted to do what’s best for Nyquist and get him back 100 percent health-wise here at Pimlico and fly him back to California. We’re not sure exactly the day we’ll do that, but Nyquist will tell us when he’s ready.” Later in the day O’Neill added: “We’re going to put him on stronger antibiotics, get him right, get him back to California and let him relax and recover from the trip.”
O’Neill says that the final schedule will be determined by how Nyquist is doing. Off the top of his head he’s looking toward racing at the Jim Dandy (July 30) or Travers Stakes (August 27). “It is a bummer. It’s like a family member being sick. We’re going to focus on getting him better and we look forward to a summer campaign.”
Nyquist’s absence from the Belmont Stakes means that there will be no rivalry renewal with Preakness Stakes champion Exaggerator. It also means that Exaggerator will likely be an overwhelming favorite against a field of lower tier finishers in the previous two Triple Crown races. Several UK sports books have him listed at 11/10 following Nyquist’s exit.