05/21/2016 8:31PM

Fast opening quarter took its toll on Nyquist

Kim Pratt
Nyquist suffered his first loss in nine career starts in the Preakness.

BALTIMORE – Live by his speed, die by his speed.

That was the game plan trainer Doug O’Neill wanted to employ for his Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist in Saturday’s $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at sloppy Pimlico.

“If we’re going to get beat, let’s get beat being aggressive and not trying to get cute and get in trouble,” O’Neill said.

Nyquist was aggressive, and he did get beat. After dueling with Uncle Lino through the fastest opening quarter in Preakness history – 22.38 seconds – Nyquist could not hold off Exaggerator, who went by him in midstretch en route to a 3 1/2-length victory in the Preakness. Nyquist got nosed out for second by Cherry Wine.

The loss was the first in nine career starts for Nyquist, the 2015 2-yeaar-old male champion who two weeks ago won the Kentucky Derby by 1 1/4 lengths over Exaggerator.

“Being 8 for 8, I kept thinking this horse is never going to lose,” O’Neill said. “They all lose one time or another, so we’ll be okay.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist sat off one other speed horse and got the jump on Exaggerator, who was far back early in that race.

Though there appeared to be plenty of other speed horses in the Preakness, O’Neill wanted jockey Mario Gutierrez to obtain a forward position. But Uncle Lino, under Fernando Perez, was intent on being in front, and the two were head-and-head after the fast opening quarter.

“We thought we had the best horse and just wanted to ride him like the best horse and not get too cute with trying to get perfect positioning,” O’Neill said. “Him going fast early was really my idea; he’s the best horse, take it to ‘em.”

Nyquist and Uncle Lino were still head-and-head through a half-mile in 46.56 seconds and six furlongs in 1:11.97.

Gutierrez said he tried to get Nyquist off Uncle Lino, “but I just couldn’t.”

It wasn’t until the three-sixteenths pole that Nyquist was able to dispatch of Uncle Lino, but Exaggerator, under Kent Desormeaux, jumped on Nyquist and went past him. Exaggerator drifted over to the inside, and Gutierrez had to get Nyquist off the rail.  Nyquist tried to fight on, but he finished just evenly and was caught on the wire by Cherry Wine for second.

“When he swung out, I thought he might come back, but Exaggerator had that momentum, and Nyquist had done so much early in the race and just couldn’t keep pace,” O’Neill said. “He still gutted it out and almost held on for second.”

Four years ago, O’Neill won the Preakness after winning the Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another. He never had the chance to run for the Triple Crown as I’ll Have Another was diagnosed with a tendon injury the day before the race.

That may have been the ultimate disappointment. On Saturday night, in the mist and mud of Pimlico, O’Neill held his head high and tried to accentuate the positive.

“It’s more the process and the journey that’s so enjoyable,” O’Neill said. “You want to win every time you lead them over here, but it’s not realistic. We enjoy the whole experience and journey. He’s still a champ in my book.”

O’Neill said he would wait to see how Nyquist comes out of the Preakness before deciding whether to run in the Belmont. Following the Preakness, O’Neill called it “a good possibility.”

Charles Sanford More than 1 year ago
Now on to the Belmont..... there is a horse who is suspect to me and he ran in the Derby and the Preakness who demonstrated that he can go longer...I hope the Belmont is on good fast track on the running..

Robert Clayton More than 1 year ago
Trainers should train and jockeys should ride.....If you feel the need to tell your jockey how to ride a horse he has ridden that many times and won the Derby on, you should get a new jockey
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
The "Comments" section doesn't show up at some of the DRF articles namely Jay Hovdey's write-up about Mario's so-called "gaffe". Quoting Andy Beyer on Mario's ride, my observation is that Andy Beyer is seldom right about anything. Who cares what he has to say! It was the trainer's call to gun Nyquist to the front, getting out of a possible hole on the rail. There really were no good options with Nyquist surrounded with speed. He either had to "go" or settle mid-pack, which in retrospect might not have been a bad idea. However, it is easy to second-guess a rider and a trainer with the benefit of hindsight. Mario followed his trainer's orders, as O'Neill himself stated. So what is it with jumping all over Mario about his ride? Makes absolutely no sense.
Teena More than 1 year ago
Race times over the slop are usually quicker, but this was a pokey Preakness. Before calling a race fast, Mr Grening needs to look at the Derby times, 22.2, 45.3, 1:10.2 and three seconds faster at the mile. Nyquist was coming down with something that wasn't detectable by race day.
Teena More than 1 year ago
Race times over the slop are usually quicker, but this was a poky Preakness. Think Mr Grening needs to look at the Derby times before calling a race fast, 22.2, 45.3, 1:10.2 and three seconds faster at the mile. Nytquist was coming down with something that wasn't detectable by race day.
George Tommila More than 1 year ago
If the horses ran as pp's indicated, it was a 2-horse race. However, you had mud, sloppy mud, you had rain. Advantage? Exaggerator. Plain as day, right on paper for all to see. Ok, Nyquist did well on off tracks, but Exz had unmatchable SPEED numbers for off track performance. As the race unfolded, I knew my bets were in trouble with Nyquist stuck in that grinding pace. Stupid me, I made all bets with Nyq-Exz 1st and 2d. I did not review my notes, where I realized there were a few plusses deserved by Cherry Wine, importantly, fresh and  also ok on wet tracks.. I'm not crying MG lost the race. Nyq was out of his element rest-wise. He's a smart horse and had always trained up for his races by a smart crew giving him time to gear up. It doesn't disqualify him as a champion if his training team asks a bit too much of him. May have been wiser to skip The Preakness and train for The Belmont. Once running in that noisy and wet slop and competing with other speed, all systems became go. If O'Neill had a do-over do you think he'd have instructed MG to ride differently? I'd hope so. Would he have then won? Don't know that.. 
tbhandicappers More than 1 year ago
Absolutely insane instructions. So if another horse decides to go 21.4, still take it to him? Next time he legs up a jock, he needs to put some tape over his mouth
Joe More than 1 year ago
Cheers to O'Neill and Gutierrez for robbing us of a thrilling finish on Saturday. Let's *not* have another.
A More than 1 year ago
Haha...you must have a sucker too to bet him and lose.
Nathan More than 1 year ago

he was stuck inside. jock had no choice but to leave.

desormaux saw the golden rail developing during the afternoon. he gets all the credit.

A More than 1 year ago
Total setup plus the track condition...don't really give much credit to Exaggerator. There was no excuse not to win. Now everyone going to jump on the bandwagon for the Belmont and lose.
Eli Dawkins More than 1 year ago
Doug said he gave the rider instructions to ride Nyquist the way he did then let me apologize to the jockey and let say Doug O'Neill that's the worse riding instructions ever given out by a trainer in the history of horse racing enough said