Nyquist’s romp in the 2016 Kentucky Derby proved that he’s without a doubt the top horse of this 3-year-old crop. It was a smashing win. To put it into perspective, he beat Gun Runner, who also ran an amazing race, by 4 1/2 lengths. Both Gun Runner and Nyquist were close to an insane pace set by Danzing Candy. In the first quarter mile, Danzing Candy, Nyquist and Gun Runner ran :22.58. Danzing Candy ran the half, with Nyquist and Gun Runner about 2 to 3 lengths off, in 45.72. Nyquist and Gun Runner closed the gap on Danzing Candy at about the 6 furlong mark, which the 3 speed horses ran in 1:10. To hang on to win the Kentucky Derby, or to even hang on to finish 3rd, which is what Gun Runner did, is amazing.
The question now becomes whether or not Nyquist can win the Triple Crown. Based on what I saw on May 7, Nyquist has a huge shot to take home the Triple Crown this year. Here are 3 reasons why.
1. He ran the fastest Kentucky Derby based on time in 13 years – Sure, if you use Beyer Figures, and a lot of us horseplayers do, Nyquist’s Beyer Fig came out to 103. American Pharoah ran a 105 in the Kentucky Derby last year. In 2014, California Chrome’s Kentucky Derby winning figure was a 97. In that respect, a 103 isn’t bad. Still, it’s not close to the average Derby winning Beyer Figure of 109, but who cares? I don’t because if you just look at what Nyquist did in real time, his Derby win was more impressive than either American Pharoah’s or California Chrome’s.
Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby with a time of 2:01.31. You have to go all the way back to 2003 to find a horse, Funny Cide, that won the roses with a faster time. Funny Cide beat Empire Maker in the Derby with a winning time of 2:01.19. Nyquist stayed close to a fast pace and still won the Derby in a fast time. That’s impressive.
2. His style says that he can win the Triple Crown – Closers, up until the Kentucky Derby went to the point system, often times have a shot to win the roses. But winning the Triple Crown is another story. Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and American Pharoah were all front running pressers who could take the lead or lay right off if they had to. Nyquist has the style needed to win the Triple Crown. In the Kentucky Derby, he allowed Danzing Candy to run ahead of him before relaxing along the backstretch. Then, he allowed Gun Runner to get the jump on him at the top of the stretch. Nyquist still managed to catch Gun Runner in the stretch and pull away from the field. That kind of style, being able to relax while still kicking it into gear when needed, is how great horses win the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.
3. His competition appears soft – Collected, the winner of the Lexington Stakes, is a nice three-year-old who appears capable of providing Nyquist with some competition. But outside of Collected, it’s hard to imagine any other three-year-old giving Nyquist providing competition in the next 5 weeks. Exaggerator should have a more difficult time getting to Nyquist in the Preakness Stakes. When it comes to the Belmont, Nyquist may be so far ahead of his competition that winning the Belmont could be a foregone conclusion before the final turn.
After a 37 year drought, we could have back-to-back Triple Crown winners. Expect trainer Bob Baffert to use his arsenal of 3 year olds, including Collected, Mor Spirit, and Rebel Stakes winner Cupid, to try and prevent Nyquist from winning the Triple Crown. I wouldn’t expect anything less. If Nyquist is to win the Crown, Baffert’s going to make him earn it. But based on how fast Nyquist won the Derby, his style of running, and his competition, even Baffert’s arsenal might have a hard time preventing Nyquist from the glory that awaits.
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