Doug O'Neill has been clear about his plans for Nyquist's path to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Reddam Racing's undefeated son of Uncle Mo will make his 3-year-old debut in the San Vicente (gr. II) Feb. 15 at Santa Anita Park and he is scheduled to ship Gulfstream Park for the Florida Derby (gr. I) April 2.
BALAN: Nyquist Begins 2016 Campaign in San Vicente
O'Neill likes the timing of the Florida Derby, five weeks out from the Run for the Roses, but qualifying for a $1 million bonus offered by Gulfstream and Fasig-Tipton Co. doesn't hurt, either. The bonus applies if any horse purchased out of the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-olds in training sale wins the 1 1/8-mile test.
The other West Coast classics candidate out of that sale, Michael Lund Petersen's Mor Spirit—an Eskendereya colt who was a $650,000 purchase at the sale last March (Nyquist sold for $400,000)—likely won't be making the same trip.
"We know he's eligible for it, but our goal is the Kentucky Derby," Mor Spirit's trainer, Bob Baffert, said Feb. 14 at Santa Anita. "I'll either keep him here, or if I take him anywhere, it'll probably be to Oaklawn Park."
Baffert kept Dortmund on the Southern California circuit of Triple Crown preps in 2015—when he swept the Robert B. Lewis (gr. III), San Felipe (gr. II), and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)—and sent American Pharoah to Oaklawn for the Rebel (gr. II) and Arkansas Derby (gr. I), but the Hall of Fame trainer didn't entirely rule out a Florida Derby trip just more than a week after Mor Spirit's victory in this year's Lewis.
NOVAK: Mor Spirit Secures Robert B. Lewis Score
"It's too far out," Baffert said. "I'm not really thinking about the bonus... A lot of it has to do with what's going on with these horses. Sometimes you get a little setback and you've got to wait or move your plans. My plan right now is—he'll let me know when he's ready. He came out of the (Lewis) well."