Nyquist got the better of Exaggerator in the Kentucky Derby
PICTURE: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos
Preview: USA, Sunday 10.47pm BST (live on ATR)
Monmouth Park: Betfair.com Haskell Invitational (Grade 1) 1m1f, dirt, 3yo
Nyquist won the first four meetings between the pair, including a decisive verdict at Churchill Downs, where Haskell contender Gun Runner came third after pressing the pace.
On a sloppy track at Pimlico, Exaggerator was to exact revenge as Nyquist tamely forfeited his unbeaten record in finishing only third. Exaggerator, however, was also unable to follow up his Classic success, offering only a moderate effort as a dismal favourite in the Belmont Stakes.
Nyquist (Doug O’Neill/Mario Gutierrez), who missed the Belmont with a high white blood cell count, now reappears for the first time since the Preakness. “He’s doing really well and his last works have been exceptional,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “I thought his last work was the best I’ve seen out of him in a long time.
“We’re coming into this race with a lot of optimism,” O’Neill added. “Obviously, Gun Runner is super impressive and Exaggerator is an awfully good horse, too. I think this is a very deep field. I hope Nyquist brings one of his better races because he’s going to need one of his better races to win. I hope he’s going to run real hard, and real tough.”
Nyquist has the worst of the draw as he breaks from the inside in a field of six. “It ties your hand a little bit leaving there,” said O’Neill. “Fortunately Nyquist leaves the gate and follow the doors pretty well.”
Keith Desormeaux threw the cat among the pigeons when Exaggerator, to be ridden by the trainer’s brother Kent, became a late addition to the field, added to the mix only 24 hours before Thursday’s post-position draw. The son of Curlin breaks from gate six of six.
“The far outside post is perfect for my horse,” said Desormeaux. “He’s an off-the-pace style runner. The inside runners can shoot away from there, go to the front, and he can watch all of the goings on from the outside and take back and make his run when he’s ready.”
Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen/Florent Geroux), who pressed the Kentucky Derby pace, took a Grade 3 event at Churchill Downs six weeks ago and should not be ruled out.
The three Derby horses are joined by a live newcomer in American Freedom (Bob Baffert/Rafael Bejarano), who is bidding to give his trainer his ninth Haskell victory after claiming the Iowa Derby on July 1.
Also on Sunday
Monmouth Park: Monmouth Cup (Grade 2) 1m½f, dirt, 3yo+ (8.29pm BST, live on ATR)
Bradester (Eddie Kenneally/Joe Bravo) drops down a level as he looks to supplement last month’s maiden Grade 1 victory in the Stephen Foster.
Del Mar: Bing Crosby Stakes (Grade 1) 6f, dirt, 3yo+ (1.40am Sun BST)
Bob Baffert saddles two: likely favourite Lord Nelson (Flavien Prat), who won the Triple Bend last month, and Justin Squared (Martin Pedroza), who lost his unbeaten record on the Belmont undercard.
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