01/05/2017 5:26PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Nyquist

Kim Pratt

Nyquist will be trying to add this year’s 3-year-old male Eclipse Award to the Eclipse Award he earned last year as champion 2-year-old male, which would emulate some of the accomplishments of American Pharoah, who completed that double one year ago.

Nyquist won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at age 2 to complete a 5-for-5 campaign, and he kept right on rolling in the spring of 2016, winning a pair of preps before capturing the Kentucky Derby. That put his name alongside Seattle Slew as the only horses to have won their divisional championship at age 2 and remain unbeaten through a victory in the Derby.

The Derby marked the eighth straight win for Nyquist, dating back to his debut in June of his 2-year-old season. Unfortunately, he did not win another race after the Derby, but the brilliance he showed, including turning back 19 rivals in the Derby, made him an obvious finalist in this division.

Nyquist, from the first crop of the red-hot sire Uncle Mo out of the Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle, was purchased by trainer Doug O’Neill’s brother, Dennis, on behalf of owners Paul and Zillah Reddam for $400,000 as a 2-year-old in training at Fasig-Tipton Florida sale.

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

Paul Reddam named Nyquist for Gustav Nyquist, a forward on the Detroit Red Wings, a National Hockey League team Reddam has been a fan of since growing up just across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario.

Nyquist’s path to the Derby was planned out months in advance. After his final start at 2, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, those associated with Nyquist had a meeting and decided Nyquist would have a sprint comeback to start the year following a break, then to go to the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby, where Nyquist was eligible for a $1 million bonus tied to the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old sale from which he graduated. The five-week time line from the Florida Derby to the Kentucky Derby also had appeal compared to the four weeks between the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby.

Nyquist began his 3-year-old season with a hard-fought, 1 1/2-length victory over Exaggerator – a horse he would see often in upcoming months – in the seven-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita.

He then shipped to Gulfstream for a showdown with another unbeaten Derby prospect, Mohaymen, in the Florida Derby. It was no contest. Nyquist won the race by 3 1/4 lengths and went to Churchill Downs as the Derby favorite.

The five weeks between starts proved beneficial, as Nyquist had a slight case of shipping fever after first arriving at Keeneland following the Florida Derby. That gave him more time to recover, and he recorded the fastest Beyer Speed Figure of his career on Derby Day, a 103.

The Derby win was the second this decade for the O’Neill brothers, the Reddams, and jockey Mario Gutierrez, having won it in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

Nyquist ran a remarkable race in the Preakness, in which he set a fast early pace before wilting in the late stages to finish third behind the victorious Exaggerator, who had finished second in the Derby.

Nyquist was ill following the Preakness and missed the Belmont Stakes. He made his next start two months later in the betfair.com Haskell Invitational, and finished fourth after again attending a hot pace in a race, similar to the Preakness, won by Exaggerator.

Nearly two months later, Nyquist made what would be his final start, finishing sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby. He was training toward a potential start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic when his retirement was announced.

Nyquist is now at Darley America in Kentucky, preparing for his first season at stud.