Nyquist: favourite to win the Kentucky Derby after his Gulfstream win
PICTURE: Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos
Report: USA, Saturday
Gulfstream Park: Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (Grade 1) 1m1f, 3yo, dirt
NYQUIST (Doug O’Neill/Mario Gutierrez) enhanced his own Kentucky Derby credentials while striking a blow to a major rival for the first US Classic of the year with a dominant front-running win to remain unbeaten.
Having cruised to victory at Santa Anita last month on his first run back since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in October, Nyquist travelled to Florida to take on another unbeaten runner Mohaymen, an impressive winner of his first five races but who was contesting a Grade 1 for the first time.
The surface remained officially good despite some heavy bursts of rain, but Gutierrez was keen to keep his mount off the inside rail as he powered along at the head of the field in the $1 million contest.
Approaching the turn for home, Mohaymen, the odds-on favourite, was ridden to press the leader and raced wide as he did so, but was unable to get alongside and at the top of the home straight Nyquist engaged overdrive and kicked clear in impressive fashion to win by three and a quarter lengths from Majesto.
O’Neill said: “It’s such a team effort. I had reservations a month or so ago – Mohaymen in his own backyard, do we really want to do something like that? But we all very quickly got on the same page and, you know, I think we just had a very lucky trip.
“Mario broke great and did a great job riding and everything just went right. This whole trip other than being delayed one day, everything else went right. It’s a credit to the whole team how he came over, how he looked and how he ran.”
Junior Alvarado, who rode Mohaymen for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stable, said he felt his horse lacked his normal zest.
He said of the fourth home: “He’s a horse that all the time drags me and jumps into the bridle right away so when we turn to the backside he’s pulling me. This time he wasn’t pulling me.”
Nyquist is the 4-1 favourite to follow in the footsteps of Big Brown and Barbaro by adding the Kentucky Derby on May 7 to victory in the Florida Derby.
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