In general, horse racing trainers are a reserved breed. They speak in measured terms about the abilities of their horses and avoid talking up–or talking down–opposing horses. For that reason alone, the praise heaped on kentucky Derby winner Nyquist by both his trainer, Doug O’Neill, and rival trainers is very impressive indeed.
The horse racing media has also done a 180 on Nyquist. You’ll recall that they spent the early part of 2016 singing the praises of Kiaran McLaughlin’s horse Mohaymen. They were able to suggest that Mohaymen was vastly superior to Nyquist despite the fact that both horses were undefeated until they met in the Florida Derby. Mohaymen finished fourth to Nyquist at Gulfstream Park and fourth once again in the Kentucky Derby. They were largely silent after the Florida Derby but they’re all on board the Nyquist bandwagon now. In fact, you can make a case that Nyquist is getting more praise now than either California Chrome or American Pharoah after their Kentucky Derby wins.
Or you can just listen to Nyquist’s trainer. Doug O’Neill is as experienced as anyone in horse racing and he minces no words when praising his Kentucky Derby winning horse: “He’s a special horse. When you get here in the morning and walk down the shedrow and you’re able to look in his eye, you know you’re right alongside greatness. What he did today gave you goose bumps, but he does that every day. It’s only been eight days since he won the Derby, so you’d expect a little deflation in his energy level, but he was as strong as ever.”
It’s impressive enough that O’Neill is as effusive in his praise for Nyquist as he is. But what about this comment from the trainer of rival Exaggerator, Keith Desormeaux: “After the San Vicente, when Nyquist set the pace and went a half in 44 and still outran Exaggerator, who is a nice horse, how can you not have a ton of respect for him? Then he goes and beats the undefeated East Coast horse (Mohaymen in the Florida Derby). Nyquist should have been 2-5 in the Kentucky Derby in my book. I think one reason he wasn’t given credit is because people want to find excuses to build their own confidence even though the facts are staring them in the face. They still want to support their favorite horse. A lot of it is fan-oriented, or betting-oriented, I guess.”