ARCADIA, Calif. – Nyquist worked six furlongs in company Monday at Santa Anita, where time is running out for the Kentucky Derby winner to regain top form.
Nyquist won his first eight starts but has lost all three since the Derby. He finished sixth last out. Despite uncertain form, the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 remains the goal. After the Monday work, it was fair to wonder if Nyquist still has it.
“To me, it’s there,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “We have faith it’s there. But after three losses in a row, we’re looking for his competitive spirits again.”
The work was designed for that. Nyquist and exercise rider Jonny Garcia broke off five lengths behind Ralis and jockey Mario Gutierrez at the five-eighths pole. Nyquist narrowed the margin on the turn, ranged outside, and collared Ralis at the top of the stretch. Nyquist and Ralis worked together through the stretch, a furlong past the finish.
The Santa Anita racetrack this fall has produced slow workouts; Nyquist was given a time 1:13, and Ralis was given a 1:14.
“We don’t need to see anything crazy time-wise,” O’Neill said afterward. “That was really nice. Sometimes when you work him by himself, you have to ask him along a little bit. Working in company, he’s naturally competitive.”
When he faces California Chrome in the BC Classic, Nyquist will try to regain the competitive form that produced five Grade 1 victories, including the BC Juvenile and Florida Derby on his way to the Kentucky Derby. He has regressed since.
Nyquist finished third in the Preakness, fourth in the Haskell, and sixth as the 1.30-1 favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby in his most recent start Sept. 24.
“It’s hard to get disappointed, but yeah, expectations were pretty high,” O’Neill said regarding Nyquist’s most recent start. “You hate to make any excuses, but the [Parx] track did seem to get a little more loose and tiring as the day went on.”
O’Neill said Nyquist will have one final workout in the Oct. 26-28 window leading into the BC Classic.
“We need him to keep his appetite up and be happy,” O’Neill said. “It’s just a matter of maintaining what you’re doing right now. He’s undefeated at this track … shock the world.”
Nyquist has won eight races and $5,189,200 from 11 starts for owner J. Paul Reddam. Gutierrez is the colt’s rider.