05/08/2016 10:52AM

Watchmaker: Nyquist proves far superior to his contemporaries

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Barbara D. Livingston
Nyquist was even more impressive winning the Kentucky Derby than his 103 Beyer Speed Figure would suggest.

Consider these finish positions in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby:

Third, beaten 4 1/2 lengths (was fifth a half-stride past the wire).

10th, beaten 14 1/2 lengths.

12th, beaten 17 lengths.

14th, beaten 18 1/2 lengths.

15th, beaten 20 lengths.

19th, beaten 37 1/4 lengths.

Eased.

Those were the respective finish positions of Gun Runner, Mor Spirit, Tom’s Ready, Outwork, Danzing Candy, Whitmore, and Shagaf. And what these seven had in common in the Kentucky Derby is they all were within 4 1/4 lengths of the early lead in the first call of the result chart.

Oh yes, there was one other horse involved in the early Derby pace. Nyquist was second in the initial stages, only a half-length off Danzing Candy’s lead.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Nyquist’s Kentucky Derby victory Saturday was so impressive, and so thoroughly deserved. He was the only true survivor of a Derby pace that completely fell apart, and Nyquist did much more than merely survive.

Every other horse involved in the Derby pace either collapsed, or out and out disintegrated. But not Nyquist. He kept on with dogged determination the way champions so often do, and he safely turned back a runner-up in Exaggerator who had this race set up for him on a silver platter. I guess Exaggerator shouldn’t feel bad that even with the aid of such a favorable pace scenario, he couldn’t dent Nyquist. No one has yet. Nyquist is now 8 for 8.

It’s seems so obvious the morning after, but it is still worth stating: Nyquist is just plain better than his contemporaries, and it isn’t really close right now. And even if Nyquist is beaten someday – almost all of the best horses lose eventually if they race often enough – this won’t change. Nyquist’s body of work already makes this established fact.

Personally, I never questioned Nyquist’s talent. I did, however, have serious doubts about his ability to successfully negotiate the Derby’s 1 1/4- mile distance. But he answered that question forcefully Saturday by scoring decisively despite such a demanding trip.

Any more questions? I don’t have any.

Quick notes:

◗Nyquist’s winning Derby Beyer Figure of 103 doesn’t do him justice. I am not in any way saying the number is inaccurate. I have every confidence it is. But that number alone doesn’t reflect how hard Nyquist ran every step of the way. Remember, how a speed figure is earned is as important as the figure itself.

◗People have to stop with the Nyquist and the lack of respect thing. He was a shorter price Saturday than American Pharoah was in his Derby last year. If money wagered isn’t a sign of respect, what is?

◗Colleague Marty McGee noted something very interesting on Twitter. Favorites are now 4 for 4 in the Derby since the Derby points system was introduced in 2013. Is there a connection, or is this just coincidence? I’m not sure yet, but it’s something to think about once the Derby dust settles.

◗It’s funny how the game works. Cathryn Sophia, impressive winner of Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, wasn’t even going to run in the Oaks until Songbird took ill and was forced to miss the race. After being beaten for the first time in the Ashland in her two-turn debut, Cathryn Sophia was targeting the seven furlong Eight Belles on the Oaks undercard. And yet even as good as she was winning the Oaks, given the most impressive way Carina Mia won the Eight Belles, Cathryn Sophia might have had real trouble in that spot.

◗Tepin was brilliant yet again winning Saturday’s Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. There isn’t a better turf miler of either sex in this country right now, which is why the decision to venture to Royal Ascot with her makes great sense from a sporting standpoint.

◗Sea Calisi, winner of Saturday’s Sheepshead Bay at Belmont, is a monster. That is all.

◗Our male turf division is always ripe for plunder from European shippers later in the year. That said, Divisidero’s win in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, and Ironicus’s score in the Fort Marcy at Belmont, both on Saturday, established them as major players in their division.

◗People claiming Saturday’s Churchill track was speed-favoring must have been watching different races than I saw. There were 10 main track races Saturday, and not a single one of them was won by a front-runner. Not one. If the track was so speed-favoring, you would think there would have been at least one front-running winner. For the record, I though the main track for Oaks Day was fair, too.