With the focus on the Kentucky Derby and subsequent Triple Crown races this time of year it’s easy to forget that horse racing is a worldwide sport. In fact, there are thriving racing scenes on just about every content from Europe to Australia. Doug O’Neill is well aware of this–while his primary focus is preparing Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Nyquist for the Kentucky Derby one of his other promising three year olds is preparing for a much more interesting trip.
Let’s start with Nyquist. Everyone knows that he’s being pointed to the Florida Derby and his connections are planning to ship him to Gulfstream Park very soon. O’Neill is still keeping his options open but it’s evident that the Florida Derby is the working plan for Nyquist: “Nothing is a slam dunk, but you’ve got to have a direction and that’s our direction. But he’s doing super. He’s doing great. You could tell by the way he came out of it, with so much energy. He had a lot of good exercises before the race, so he had a pretty good foundation going into it and the San Vicente is only going to add to that.”
That’s the easy part. Nyquist goes to Florida and tries to lock down a Kentucky Derby spot. His stablemate, Frank Conversation, doesn’t have that cushy plan. Since he has shown some aptitude on synthetic surfaces the original plan that O’Neill concocted was an ‘end around’ into the later Triple Crown races starting with the Grade 3 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes on the polytrack at Turfway Park. But that changed once the racing powers that be in Dubai waved a big, fat check in front of Frank Conversation’s connections. He’ll be entering the March 27 UAE Derby at Dubai’s Meydan Race Track. The thinking is that he’ll take nicely to the Tapeta synthetic surface and have a good shot at the $2 million purse. O’Neill insists that the logistics aren’t as bad as they used to be: “It’s a huge honor to get invited and it’s a big payday,” O’Neill said. “We just feel fine, timing-wise, and it fits with him, too. He’s got a good mind and the travel is amazing now. It’s not as tough as it once was. That’s not a concern at all.”
And if it were a concern there are a couple million reasons to give it a shot.