Nyquist out of Belmont with high white cell count

Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will miss the Belmont Stakes on June 11 due to an illness, trainer Doug O’Neill told Daily Racing Form Tuesday morning.

O’Neill said that Nyquist has an elevated white blood-cell count and that his temperature, after returning to normal Monday afternoon, was up to 101.2 degrees mid-morning Tuesday. His normal temperature is 100.3, O’Neill said.

O’Neill said that Nyquist would be put on stronger antibiotics to treat the illness and that he would return to California when he’s healthy.

“We’re going to put him on stronger antibiotics, get him right, get him back to California and let him relax and recover from the trip,” O’Neill said by phone.

The defection of Nyquist means there will not be a rubber match with Preakness winner Exaggerator in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. Nyquist, the undefeated 2-year-old champion of 2015, beat Exaggerator by 1 1/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Exaggerator turned the tables on Nyquist in the Preakness, winning by 3 1/2 lengths while Nyquist was nosed out for second by Cherry Wine.

O’Neill said Sunday he wanted to run Nyquist in the Belmont and had planned to ship the colt to New York from Baltimore on Monday. But Monday morning, Nyquist was diagnosed with a “102-and-change” temperature. Though he was treated and the temperature returned to normal, blood work taken Monday revealed a high white-blood cell count.

“It is a bummer,” O’Neill said. “It’s like a family member being sick. We’re going to focus on getting him better and we look forward to a summer campaign.”

O’Neill said he is not sure where or when Nyquist would return, but he did say he hoped the horse could run this summer at Saratoga, in either the Jim Dandy on July 30 or the Travers on Aug. 27.

Tom Franklin is a senior contributor at US Racing.
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