04/07/2016 8:43AM

Elevated white blood cell count keeps Nyquist in barn

Coady Photography
Nyquist is expected to resume training for the Kentucky Derby later this week.

Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist's return to training at Keeneland has been delayed by an elevated white blood cell count.

Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill, said that Nyquist has displayed no outward symptoms of illness, such as an elevated temperature or leaving feed. However, routine blood work showed the elevated cell count. Nyquist shipped to Keeneland Sunday after winning the Florida Derby the previous day. The Kentucky Derby is on May 7.

"He's doing great, no temperature," Sisterson said. "We just took his blood, and his white count was slightly elevated. With the five weeks, why rush him back? ... Why take the risk of him actually getting sick?"

An elevated white cell count in a horse can indicate an immune response or stress. It's not uncommon for a horse to show a stress response shortly after shipping.

"The shipping can affect it," Sisterson said. "We have a standard routine of taking the blood, just to see how they are. If it wasn't the standard routine, we wouldn't have taken the blood, just physically and mentally how he was acting there was no reason to do it.

"He hasn't missed a beat, he has no temperature, his energy level is high, and we're just doing what's right for him and letting him have a couple more easy days. He wants to do more."

Sisterson said that Nyquist was "dragging us around" walking the shedrow. Pending the weather and his condition, the colt will return to training Friday or Saturday.

"He hasn't missed a beat eating-wise, and we're all happy with him," Sisterson said. "It's just, why take the risk with him? It's not like we have two weeks."

Nyquist remained unbeaten in seven career starts with his Florida Derby win, and his bankroll of $3,322,600 would make him the richest horse ever to start in the Kentucky Derby. From the first crop of champion Uncle Mo, the colt locked up his own divisional championship last year by winnng the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.