Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) favorite Nyquist wanted to go early, but quickly settled into a smooth stride in his second-to-last breeze April 23 at Keeneland before the May 7 Louisville classic.
Working in company with grade I winner Ralis, Reddam Racing's Nyquist completed five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 Saturday morning on the Keeneland main track. The champion son of Uncle Mo registered splits of :12, :23 4/5, and :35 4/5 under regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia. Nyquist did very little in terms of a run out.
The five-furlong time, which ranked 19th of 34 at the distance, was exactly what O'Neill wanted from the move, which he called a maintenance work.
"He's fit and ready so we're just strictly working for maintenance," O'Neill said. "We told Jonny '1:01 and change,' and the clockers had him at 1:01 4/5. So that's pretty good."
O'Neill said he plans a similar five-furlong breeze next Saturday, April 30, at Keeneland before shipping Nyquist to Churchill Downs Sunday, May 1.
On April 23 Nyquist started into his jog about four lengths behind Ralis and could be seen pulling on Garcia to try to catch up. When the work began, the undefeated colt was about 1 1/2 lengths behind. He settled into stride, working outside of Ralis through the turn, powering through the stretch without any urging from Garcia, and finishing about a half-length up at the wire.
"We thought with him going in company, he would do it easier. Sometimes when he's by himself, Johnny has to ask him a bit. We just thought in company it would be easier on him," O'Neill said. "He was strong early, he really wanted to go."
Preparing for the Derby at Keeneland has worked well, in O'Neill's estimation. Nyquist arrived April 3 after winning the April 2 Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (gr. I).
“He looks so well, he’s really thriving and loving Kentucky,” O’Neill said. “He couldn’t be happier.”
O'Neill added that because Nyquist likes to get out of the stall earlier in the morning, he'll probably not use Churchill's designated track time reserved for Derby and Oaks starters and instead will go out at his usual 7 a.m. for morning exercise in the days leading up to the race.
O'Neill said last year's Hopeful Stakes (gr, I) winner Ralis is preparing for a start in the Pat Day Mile Stakes (gr. III) for Reddam Racing on the Derby undercard. Homebred Ralis, by Square Eddie , most recently finished fifth in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III) April 2 at Turfway Park.
In other news out of the O'Neill stable, grade I winning filly Gomo, by Uncle Mo, is battling an infection and is being treated at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. The Reddam Racing runner has not started since finishing fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II), also April 2.
O'Neill said Gomo will be fine, but they won't make any racing plans until she fully recovers.
Also Saturday, Laoban , who currently ranks 23rd on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points list, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 (12th of 34).