- NYQUIST: PERFECT IS AS PERFECT DOES
- TRAINER FELT ENERGY OF TEAM O’NEILL
- GUTIERREZ IS MR. COOL IN THE SADDLE
- STELLAR WIND WORKS FOR VANITY MILE
- GOLDEN GATE JACKPOT NEARS $700,000
NYQUIST, SEATTLE SLEW MADE FROM SAME MOLD?
The sun was out in all its glory at Santa Anita early Sunday morning, as if the racing
gods were content in the knowledge that a three-year-old from Southern California had won the Kentucky Derby for the fourth time in the last five years.
Saturday it was Nyquist, who joined I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014) and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (2015). The comfortable 1 ¼-length victory under a flawless ride by Mario Gutierrez for owners Paul and Zillah Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill extended Nyquist’s unbeaten streak to eight.
Nyquist covered the mile and a quarter in 2:01.31, the third-fastest time for the distance in the track’s long existence. For good measure, Santa Anita-based Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator closed from 15th in the field of 20 to be second, the only horse to make up significant ground against the winner, although Nyquist was never seriously threatened.
Still, some of Nyquist’s naysayers were not dispatched.
John Shirreffs was not among the coterie of critics when the trainer of 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo at 50-1 was asked whether the Golden State dominance might be attributed to something in the water, so to speak.
“New York has the best water in the world; ask all the pizza makers,” Shirreffs said, laughing aloud over his light sense of sarcasm. “Seriously, things go in cycles, and we’ve had some really, really great horses the last few years.
“I think Nyquist is a very special horse. When he won that seven furlong race (the San Vicente (Feb. 15), how many three-year-olds can run 1:20 (1:20.71)? That’s talent. I don’t want to jinx the horse, but he reminds me of Seattle Slew (the first undefeated horse to win the Triple Crown, in 1977. Nyquist would be the second).”
Added trainer Gary Sherlock, who plans to enter California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino in the May 21 Preakness against Nyquist, “The best horse wins, it’s as simple as that, and Nyquist is just the best horse. I don’t know why he doesn’t get respect.
“How can you knock him? There might be a Triple Crown champion back-to-back. If he wins the Preakness, he’ll win the Triple Crown.”
Perhaps that would sate doubters of Nyquist, despite a record that becomes impeccably more impressive with each triumph.
“I think respect stops at the Rockies,” Shirreffs said. “But now Nyquist’s team doesn’t have to climb over the Rockies. They can fly over them. It takes more than a good horse to win the Derby. It takes a tough horse. Giacomo was like that. He didn’t let anything bother him.”
As for the future, imagine Beholder, California Chrome and Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.
It would be like Mantle, Mays and Ruth on the same field; Gretzky, Orr and Howe on the same ice; Ali, Louis and Marciano in the same ring.
Savor the possibility.
EURTON SHARES THE FUN IN NYQUIST VICTORY
Peter Eurton was at Santa Anita bright and early Sunday morning after saddling Kobe’s Back to a third-place finish in the Churchill Downs on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby undercard.
The trainer did beat the crowd (167,227, second-largest in the track’s storied history), but not before sharing in some of the festivities up close and personal.
“I was stabled at the same barn as Nyquist and there was a lot of energy,” Eurton said. “I thought I crashed a party I wasn’t invited to. It was a lot of fun.
“After we ran Kobe, we jumped on a plane and made a pit stop about halfway home and I was able to watch the Derby live on a big screen, so we beat all the traffic.
“Otherwise, we could have gotten home at midnight or one o’clock in the morning. As it turned out, we landed at 7 p.m. It was awesome.
“We’re thrilled for all the California connections, Doug and Mr. Reddam. It’s all good.”
As for Kobe’s Back, Eurton said, “He looked good cooling out after the race. If all goes well we’ll look for bigger and better things.”
SANTA ANITA FANS CHEER MARIO TO VICTORY
“Go, Mario! Go, Mario! Go, Mario!”
That was the mantra shouted by fans on Santa Anita’s posh mezzanine Saturday watching Mario Gutierrez pilot Nyquist to victory in the Kentucky Derby on the big screen.
The 29-year-old jockey rode the race just like it had been drawn up on paper. He couldn’t have authored a better ride. You can’t improve on perfection.
“He’s Mr. Cool,” trainer Steve Knapp said of Gutierrez at Clockers’ Corner Sunday
morning. “He handles the big pressure. He did it in the Florida Derby and he did it yesterday.”
THE FACT IS, ALL NYQUIST DOES IS WIN
Private clocker Gary Young hadn’t fully scrutinized replays of Nyquist’s Kentucky Derby win Sunday, but he did allow as to how the son of Uncle Mo couldn’t be faulted in victory.
“He got a great trip,” Young said. “The ironic part is, going into the race everyone said if the pace was slow the front-runners would keep running and if the pace was fast the come-from-behinders would run good.
“The pace was fast and the only horse that made up any ground was Exaggerator. I haven’t yet seen the replays that thoroughly, but it didn’t look like that many horses had troubled trips.
“There was still some water on the track after that half-hour downpour before the race, and I have heard that some horses might have been slipping and sliding.
“But Nyquist won. All he does is win.”
Trainer Brian Koriner summed it up: “California rules!”
FINISH LINES: Stellar Wind, three-year-old filly champion of 2015, worked five furlongs Sunday in a minute flat in preparation for the Grade I Vanity Mile on June 4 and a possible meeting with three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder. “She’s right on track,” trainer John Sadler said of Stellar Wind. “Three more works and she’ll be ready.” . . . Trainer David Hofmans plans to work Santa Anita Handicap winner Melatonin Monday for the Grade I, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 25 . . . The Golden Pick 6 jackpot at Golden Gate Fields starts at a whopping $693,304.33 today. The popular 20¢ wager will begin with race four, scheduled for 2:22 p.m. Half of the Pick 6 sequence is slated to be run on the turf course. The jackpot, largest in the United States, continues to grow after a single ticket on Saturday threatened to spring a $757,538 payoff if Desert Peach had won the finale. First post at Golden Gate is 12:45 p.m. Spring racing continues until June 12 . . . Santa Anita hosts a Taco Festival next Saturday, May 14. Fans can purchase a Trackside Package that includes tacos and Mexican Craft beers on the trackside apron throughout the day. Online tickets are available at santaanita.com/events . . . Martin Garcia rides Robert B. Lewis third-place finisher I Will Score for Jerry Hollendorfer in next Saturday’s Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes for three-year-olds at seven furlongs, and Bellamentary for Phil D’Amato in next Sunday’s $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs . . . The Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) will partner with trainers Jim Cassidy, Matt Chew, Eddie Truman and Howard Zucker in offering a FREE “Conformation Clinic” at Santa Anita next Saturday. The informal workshop is intended to help participants develop an eye for a horse. Attendees will visit the trainers’ barns, where they can view horses to identify their conformation strengths and weaknesses.