Last weekend, I couldn’t have been more right. This weekend, Nyquist proved me dead wrong.
The circumstances were against the son of Uncle Mo, but instead of succumbing to them, he bucked them off with enthusiasm.
Nyquist went straight to the lead, which is what I expected — it was the best way for him to avoid traffic. And, like I envisioned, he wound up being hounded every step of the way.
Despite a tiring track labeled as “good,” the Juvenile Champion threw up legitimate splits of 23.6 seconds for the opening quarter, :47.09 for the half and 1:11.39 for the first three quarters of a mile. After that point, he dismissed Sawyer’s Mickey and Chovanes (the two who had hounded him through the above splits) and was faced with the challenge of Mohaymen.
For a brief moment around the turn, it looked as if Mohaymen would challenge Nyquist, but the champion would have none of it. As they straightened away, Nyquist re-broke, opening up two lengths on his closest competitor. He lengthened that advantage, despite some drifting, down the length of the stretch, eventually winning by an easy 3 ¼ lengths.
Many will look at his speed figures and be turned off, despite the ease in which he won. A 94 Beyer speed figure and 97 Brisnet figure this late in the game rarely inspires confidence. However, I’ll Have Another, who was campaigned by the same connections as Nyquist, won the Kentucky Derby after only running a 95 Beyer in his final prep.
Another thing to look at is that Nyquist improved 7 points from his last route race, which came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. There he earned an 87.
The difference between yesterday and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is that Nyquist ran faster going longer, off of much less preparation. When running in the Breeders’ Cup, he had already run four times prior, with his final prep for the race being a route at the same distance as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
This time around, Nyquist entered the Florida Derby off of only one race in the last 23 weeks, since the Breeders’ Cup. That race was the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes, a sprint. Despite the lack of racing, he still managed to move forward in the Florida Derby.
I underestimated the talent and tenacity of Nyquist going into the Florida Derby. Exiting the race, I can honestly say that I won’t be doing that again. Does he still have to prove he can get the 10 furlongs of the Kentucky Derby? Sure, but so does every other horse pointing towards the big race.
If Nyquist can handle the Derby distance and makes another leap forward, that puts him in the hunt with the best of his generation.
Nyquist, by all accounts should have lost the Florida Derby. He lacked preparation, he was traveling across the country, he was hounded by two other horses from both sides before being challenged by the brilliant Mohaymen. Most horses would have succumbed to the pressure… but he didn’t.
In the Florida Derby, he proved me and the rest of his doubters wrong. It is true that he still has questions to answer, but I won’t make the mistake of underestimating this colt again.
I would advise everyone else to do the same and to start giving Nyquist the respect he has so rightfully earned.