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Nyquist Maintains Momentum as Kentucky Derby Betting Favorite

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After claiming the No. 13 post position Nyquist continues to dominate the odds to win the Kentucky Derby, pegged as a +300 favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Nyquist takes a perfect record through seven races into Saturday afternoon’s 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and is slated to occupy the same post position he held when he claimed victory at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last October.

The Doug O’Neill-trained three-year-old colt will be looking to duplicate the success of recent betting favorites at the Kentucky Derby.

Favorites have won each of the past three editions of the race, including American Pharoah, who also went on to capture the Triple Crown a year ago after paying out at 5/2 odds in the Kentucky Derby.

Nyquist will be flanked by his two primary competitors on the Kentucky Derby odds, with Exaggerator starting from the No. 11 post and Mohaymen drawing the No. 14 post.

Exaggerator has maintained the momentum he gained on the Kentucky Derby odds following his spectacular victory at last month’s Santa Anita Derby, staying just ahead of Mohaymen at a solid +750.

Mohaymen continues to hang tough at +800 following his first-ever loss, a fourth-place finish five weeks ago in the Florida Derby, won handily by Nyquist. Mohaymen tallied wins in the Fountain of Youth and Holy Bull Stakes while starting from the No. 12 post and the No. 11 post, respectively.

Gun Runner rounds out the front of the Kentucky Derby betting pack with +900 odds, and will start from the No. 5 post.

The Steven Asmussen-trained Colt has won his last two starts, at the Louisiana Derby and the Risen Star Stakes, and will be looking to build on the past success of horses starting from the No. 5 post, which have accounted for 13 Kentucky Derby winners since 1900.

That’s good news for Asmussen, who will send out both Gun Runner and Creator in this year’s race, but has yet to produce a winner in 13 Kentucky Derby appearances.

Creator will start from the No. 3 post after earning a Kentucky Derby berth with a victory at the Arkansas Derby, where he paid out at a healthy 10/1, and has seen his odds rapidly climb from +2000 to +1200.

Destin, saddled by trainer Todd Pletcher, follows at +1400, ahead of Suddenbreakingnews and Mo Tom at +1600, while Mor Spirit sits at +1800, but will start from the No. 17 post, which has not produced a Kentucky Derby winner.

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.