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Nyquist Steady Atop Latest Odds to Win 2016 Kentucky Derby

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Nyquist sits as the +300 betting favorite on the odds to win the Kentucky Derby at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, but he faces growing competition from the field.

Nyquist, a three-year-old colt that remains undefeated through seven races, is scheduled to run his final breeze at Keeneland on Friday before moving to Louisville ahead of next Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

The Doug O’Neill trainee last raced in the Florida Derby four weeks ago, dominating from gate to wire in an impressive win to move to the top of the odds and surpass early favorite Mohaymen, who finished fourth at Gulfstream and now sits third on the betting lines for the 2016 Kentucky Derby at +1000.

Nyquist’s perfect record includes a victory at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and he is looking to become the first to follow up that accomplishment with a Kentucky Derby win since 2007.

The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Mohaymen had sported odds as short as +225 prior to his disappointing finish in the Florida Derby, and now also trails Exaggerator, who has rocketed to +800 since his spectacular run three weeks ago at the Santa Anita Derby.

RELATED: How to watch the Kentucky Derby

Undeterred by a sloppy track, Exaggerator powered to his fourth career win, crushing the race favorite Mor Spirit by 6.25 lengths, and sending his Kentucky Derby odds soaring from a previously distant +3500.

Mohaymen, meanwhile, is joined at +1000 by Gun Runner, who won going away at last month’s Louisiana Derby to claim his second straight victory. Gun Runner had previously been pegged at +2000, improved to +1400 following his most recent win, and has continued his steady climb up the odds throughout the month of April.

Brody’s Cause finally returned to form following a seventh-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby, grinding out an important win in the Blue Grass Stakes to lift his odds to +950, but has since fallen back to +1200 at Kentucky Derby betting sites.

Destin, a Todd Pletcher-trained colt, took the win at Tampa Bay for his third career victory, and has been a steady presence on the Kentucky Derby odds at a respectable +1400.

Following a pair of wins, including a close victory at the Rebel Stakes, Cupid was pegged as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby, but finished a distant 10th. Cupid has since been scratched from the Kentucky Derby following throat surgery, opening the door for Mo Tom, who has held steady at +1600.

Mor Spirit sits next at +1800, followed by Suddenbreakingnews, Outwork, and Creator, who round out the odds leaders, each at +2000.

Wood Memorial boosts purse to attract top horses

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NEW YORK — The Wood Memorial purse could increase to $1 million as part of a bonus created to entice the top 3-year-olds to run in the Kentucky Derby prep on April 7.

New York Racing Association officials said Saturday that the presence of any horse in the field with a previous Grade 1 or Group 1 victory would increase the purse from $750,000 to $1 million if the qualifying horse starts. In that case, the winner would receive $590,000, the runner-up would earn $190,000 and third would be worth $90,000.

The Wood is run at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series that awards 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. The top 20 horses on the leaderboard earn starting spots in the Derby on May 5.

Jack Van Berg dies at 81

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Jack Van Berg, a Hall of Fame trainer who oversaw Alysheba to victories in the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, died Wednesday. He was 81.

He died in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital, according to a spokeswoman for Oaklawn Park, where Van Berg had relocated his training base after leaving Southern California in 2013. No cause was given.

Van Berg ranks fourth all-time among trainers in North America, with 6,523 victories from 41,164 starts, according to Equibase. He had career purse earnings of $85,925,482.

In the Derby, Alysheba and jockey Chris McCarron were nearly knocked down at the top of the stretch by Bet Twice. Alysheba recovered and won despite having just one career victory before the Run for the Roses. Alysheba won the Preakness to set up a try for the Triple Crown but finished fourth in the Belmont.

As a 4-year-old, Alysheba won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic and went on to earn the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Van Berg saddled Gate Dancer to victory in the 1984 Preakness. That same year, he earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.

Van Berg was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985. His father, trainer Marion Van Berg, already was there, having entered in 1970.

From 1959-77, Van Berg was the leading trainer at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1976, he won a record 496 races and was the nation’s leading trainer, with $2,976,196 in purse earnings.

In 1987, Van Berg became the first trainer to win 5,000 races when he saddle Art’s Chandelle to victory at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

He trained in Southern California for 41 years until moving to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, after Hollywood Park closed in December 2013. Van Berg blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track’s closure.

“I just think it’s a pathetic thing,” he said at the time. “It’s ridiculous to let something like this that so many people love and thrive on close. They did everything they could to kill racing. I’ve had enough. I don’t like California racing anymore. I don’t like the way they run it and what they do.”

Van Berg mentored Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who began as an assistant to him.

Born June 7, 1936, in Columbus, Nebraska, John Charles Van Berg began training for his father in the 1960s. The elder Van Berg trained nearly 1,500 winners but was more successful as an owner, winning 4,691 races and $13,936,965. He was the first inductee of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, and his son followed him.