Updated on 05/19/2016 2:10PM

Slew of reasons Nyquist can keep it going in Preakness

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Barbara D. Livingston
Nyquist can capture his sixth Grade 1 win Saturday in the Preakness as he chases the Triple Crown.

BALTIMORE – He was a champion at 2, remained unbeaten through the Kentucky Derby, beating a field many thought was substandard, and his Triple Crown bid came soon after a lengthy Triple Crown drought ended, which might have initially kept him from being fully appreciated.

That was the story arc in 1977 for Seattle Slew, and there are many parallels that can be drawn to Nyquist, who will try to keep his perfect record and his Triple Crown hopes alive when he starts as the heavy favorite Saturday in the 141st Preakness Stakes here at Pimlico.

Like Seattle Slew, Nyquist won all of his starts at 2, earning a divisional Eclipse Award. Like Seattle Slew, Nyquist beat a Derby field that appeared to be below par. Of the 19 horses who ran against Nyquist two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, only two are back for the Preakness, equaling the number of Derby rivals Seattle Slew faced at Pimlico in 1977.

And like Seattle Slew, appreciation for Nyquist may be suffering from a Triple Crown hangover. Though Seattle Slew was four years removed from the mighty Secretariat ending a 25-year Triple Crown drought in 1973, Nyquist is racing in the large shadow cast by American Pharoah, whose sweep of the Triple Crown last year ended a 37-year gap. Had American Pharoah gone the way of Smarty Jones, Spectacular Bid, and California Chrome, losing the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, there might be even more anticipation over what Nyquist is trying to achieve.

To be sure, Nyquist is starting to get his due. His Kentucky Derby victory was satisfying and emphatic. Bettors made him a strong 2-1 favorite against 19 others, he was clearly best on the day, and students of time noted that his Beyer Speed Figure was a career best. Eight starts into his career, there is the very real possibility that he’s still improving.

“American Pharoah did a wonderful job,” said Doug O’Neill, the trainer of Nyquist. “Those are big shoes to fill, but Nyquist can fill them if we’re as fortunate to do as much as American Pharoah. It would be wonderful if he could fill those shoes and carry the torch forward.”

Nyquist has shown the ability to handle just about anything thrown his way. He has five Grade 1 victories, earned at five different tracks – Del Mar, Santa Anita, Keeneland, Gulfstream, and Churchill Downs. He has won when working out ideal trips, like in the Kentucky Derby, and prevailed when early race trouble could have beat him, like in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Those who doubted his aptitude at 1 1/4 miles saw him sail through the finish line in the Derby and then gallop out as if he could do more. He cuts back to 1 3/16 miles in the Preakness.

“He went from seven furlongs to a mile and an eighth before the Derby,” O’Neill said, referring to a two-prep schedule of the San Vicente Stakes and Florida Derby. “He’s won from five furlongs to a mile and a quarter. He’s won from the rail multiple times, from the outside. What I love is the five Grade 1’s at five different tracks. That’s pretty incredible.”

In the Preakness, which has a purse of $1.5 million, Nyquist will try to win his sixth Grade 1 at his sixth different track. He is the 3-5 favorite on the lines of both Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and Keith Feustle of Pimlico.

Nyquist’s main rival is undoubtedly Exaggerator, who was second in the Derby. Although Exaggerator has lost four times to Nyquist, he is inching ever closer, having been beaten just 1 1/4 lengths in the Derby, and he has made a positive physical appearance here this week, looking ready to get right back into the ring and take another swing.

Exaggerator’s rider, Kent Desormeaux, said that some traffic he encountered in the Derby “denied me the opportunity to challenge Nyquist,” but added, “I’m not sure Nyquist would have let me by.”

As a result, Desormeaux said, “For several reasons, I’ll adjust to the situation in an attempt to beat Nyquist.”

Nyquist starts from post 3, Exaggerator from post 5, with Awesome Speed – one of the expected front-runners – between them.

The only other horse exiting the Derby is Lani, the Japanese-based horse who finished ninth at Churchill Downs.

:: PREAKNESS: Buy pps, watch Saturday's card live

The other eight runners all were kept out of the Derby, either because they weren’t deemed good enough at the time – like Collected and Uncle Lino – or they didn’t draw in from the also-eligible list, like Cherry Wine and Laoban.

Uncle Lino was third behind Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby, then won the California Chrome Stakes at Los Alamitos.

“He’s improved a lot mentally,” said Gary Sherlock, who trains Uncle Lino. “He’s not crazy, but he’s been like a little kid, wanting to go, go, go all the time. Now he drops his head when he does his work.”

Laoban has shown speed in his races, but he is removing blinkers for this race, and trainer Eric Guillot said he does not want Laoban to be battling for the lead with the likes of Abiding Star.

Always quick with a quip, Guillot said he believes the Preakness speed is “stacked higher than my plate at a Chinese buffet.”

Abiding Star, Laoban, Nyquist, and Uncle Lino are all sons of the white-hot stallion Uncle Mo, giving him four of the 11 runners in this race.

Stradivari is a wild card. He has the least experience, with just three starts, and is making his stakes debut but comes off a fast allowance win at Keeneland. Both he and Collected figure to try to lay just off the leaders.

If the leaders go too fast too soon, that would be beneficial to late runners like Cherry Wine, Exaggerator, and Fellowship.

The Preakness is the 13th race on a marathon 14-race card, with first post at 10:30 a.m. Eastern and the last scheduled for 7:35 p.m., more than nine hours later. Post time for the Preakness is listed as 6:45 p.m.

There are seven stakes preceding the Preakness, three of them graded, including the Grade 2, $250,000 Dixie for older grass runners.

Weather could be a significant factor Saturday. The National Weather Service is calling for a 90 percent chance of rain, with a high of just 59 degrees.

Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Kind of a week Sat wagering wise. The 2nd and 4th look good at Pimlico and the ARL PK4 if they don' scratch too many. Belmont weak again. Gulf was down, I assume because of Pimlico as to direct wagering their way.. Gonna be doing more watching than betting again.
Marcus Semona More than 1 year ago
3 Derby starters including the winner, now 4 out of 11 Preakness starters, all from his first crop.  Uncle Mo is the second coming of Northern Dancer
ihatemybookie More than 1 year ago
Pimlico takeout is 26% on all bets....FYI. The only realistic bet is the pick 5 at 12%. These Two greedy days at pimlico is the only thing that keeps them open. Don't support them.
RaceTote More than 1 year ago
It may be premature to draw comparisons between champion Nyquist and the legendary race horse and sire of sires, Seattle Slew. The latter won the triple crown and the Breeder's Cup Classic. He went on to produce a mountain of graded stakes winners, ending his barn career with the highest stud fee ever, with the exception of Canadian champion Northern Dancer. 
 Perhaps Nyquist will match up to Seattle Slew, but he certainly has some enormous horse shoes to fill first, and a score of hurdles to cross. 
 For what it's worth, I hope it comes to pass. The more exceptional animals exposed to the public, the greater racing will become in popularity. 
 As much as many of us love horse racing, it's very existence is in jeopardy. In spite national television coverage of the top races, and front page coverage of last year's triple crown winner,  American Pharoah, there is organized opposition to the sport. 
 This comes primarily from fanatical animal rights groups and anti-gambling lobbies. A colt the likes of Nyquist may be coming at just the right time to create sufficient enthusiasm to push these negative elements to the back page through a back-to-back triple crown victory. I sure hope so.
  I can't imagine a world without horse racing. If it ever happens, I hope it comes ten trillion years after I'm dead and buried, when the sun no longer shines.  
Larry Marcus More than 1 year ago
Uh.............Seattle Slew retired from racing after his 1978 season.  The first Breeder's Cup was in 1984.  So clearly he did not win a Breeder's Cup Classic.
Matt Dougherty More than 1 year ago
What?  It's beyond premature.  He loses tomorrow.
Charles Sanford More than 1 year ago
It does not matter how slowly you go... so long as you don't stop!!....... a quote by a great man!!
Marthadiann Guyer More than 1 year ago
If course wet - should bold well for  Exaggerator
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately there are humans involved in how fast or not the pace will be. And already the Laoban people have opted to remove blinkers from that horse in an effort to slow him down some. So the pace will probably be sensible. More important that what the track crew and weather do to the surface. There is a tendency to seal  and create hard fast speed friendly surfaces for big races. And this race already favours speed types. Check Shackleford and others. To complicate matters a wet track is expected .last last year American Pharoah took the lead early in the mud and never looked back. But he was a freak and would have won under any conditions. So on paper this looks like a 2 horse race with the edge going to Nyquist over Exaggerator based on how the track usually plays and the head to head record. But we still have to run the race and there's no fun in a $5 exact or payout. So I will once again go against the consensus and pick 2 closers Exaggerator and Lani over  3 horses and throw out Nyquist. On the off chance that 2 miracles happen. A) the track is fair to closers on the day.. B) the Derby winner gets in a speed duel with 2 others. And is a little tired late.
Bob Blake More than 1 year ago
i've never seen joel get one right. can't figure out what's wrong with his thinking or maybe it's the show m.o.
Bob Blake More than 1 year ago
mike, stop talking with marbles in your mouth man. enunciate.
MARK More than 1 year ago
Exaggerator never has and will never get a sniff of Nyquist.  Stradivari will run 2nd.
Matt Dougherty More than 1 year ago
Incorrect