The current Kentucky Derby betting favorite is the Doug O’Neill trained horse Nyquist and on Saturday he arrived at Churchill Downs to begin final preparations for the biggest race of his life. The Kentucky Derby will take place next Saturday and ever since he dispatched early season favorite Mohaymen in the Florida Derby he’s been the horse to beat.
It wasn’t a long trip for Nyquist who had been training at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. On Friday, he had his final serious pre-Derby workout and afterwards trainer O’Neill spoke of the excellent training conditions at Keeneland and the wisdom of the decision not to return to California after the Florida Derby: “To have gone from Southern California, to South Florida, back to Southern California just seemed like too much. It’s allowed us to be as best prepared as we could be for the Kentucky Derby. Then the track here is great. The main track is in great shape and if it rains, you can go to the training track, which is always in great shape. We just haven’t missed a beat, really.”
And about Nyquist’s final workout? O’Neill was very happy saying that the horse looked great without exerting maximum effort: “He looked great out there. The time he went today without much effort was wowing. (Next week) he’ll visit the gate, meet the gate crew, (and) maybe walk through the paddock once. A little jog, a little gallop—not a lot going on next week for him.”
O’Neill says that Nyquist has a lot of personality and even played to the crowd during his Friday workout, reminiscent of boxer Floyd Mayweather: “He does play around a little bit. He’s a playboy. He knows he’s good and he likes to flaunt it a little bit I guess.”
Doug O’Neill won the Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another in 2012. He says that unlike I’ll Have Another, Nyquist benefits from fewer but more intensive training sessions: “I like that. It gives his body time to recover from these good stamina-type of workouts. What we’ve seen today is what we’ve seen prior to his other races. It’s worked then, so I’m optimistic it will work in eight days.”