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Derby winner Nyquist heads to Preakness; new rivals await

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist heads to Baltimore on Monday to prepare for the Preakness, where the undefeated colt could face up to 13 rivals including nine new shooters seeking to derail his Triple Crown bid.

Nyquist had been walked, bathed and returned to his stall at Churchill Downs by 6 a.m. Sunday, less than 12 hours after he won the Derby by 1 1/4 lengths and improved his record to 8-0. Trainer Doug O’Neill had already gone back to Southern California for a few days before returning east to rejoin his bay colt at Pimlico.

O’Neill told a track official that Nyquist was “doing great” and “looking bright-eyed” the morning after. The colt is the first unbeaten Derby winner with eight victories since Majestic Prince in 1969.

He will put that record on the line in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 21 against a mix of old and new rivals. The field is limited to 14 horses.

Derby runner-up Exaggerator, who has lost all four meetings with Nyquist, and ninth-place finisher Lani, who was beaten 10 3/4 lengths, are expected to return in the Preakness. Also possible are third-place Derby finisher Gun Runner, who was beaten by 4 1/2 lengths, and Suddenbreakingnews, who was fifth.

The newcomers are Laoban and Cherry Wine, who were both entered in the Derby but didn’t get in the race; Lexington Stakes winner Collected, trained by Bob Baffert; Federico Tesio winner Awesome Speed; Stradivari, trained by Todd Pletcher; and California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino.

Also under consideration are Pat Day Mile winner Sharp Azteca; Wood Memorial third-place finisher Adventist; and Florida Derby third-place finisher Fellowship.

Keith Desormeaux, who trains Exaggerator, said he would like a rematch in the Preakness.

“He was the closest threat,” said J. Paul Reddam, who owns Nyquist. “If I were him, I would want a rematch too. The horses are not machines, so it will be a great race.”

Reddam, O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez enjoyed their second Derby victory, having won in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

“There was no wild, drunken party,” said Steve Rothblum, manager for Reddam Racing. “With a horse this good, we wanted to treat it with respect and the reverence that we owe the horse.”

I’ll Have Another also won the Preakness that year but was retired on the eve of the Belmont with a leg injury.

Nyquist is following a schedule similar to I’ll Have Another, who also spent the two weeks leading up to the Preakness at Pimlico. Nyquist came into Louisville a week before the Derby after training at Keeneland in nearby Lexington.

“This year we are a lot more mature,” O’Neill said. “The people that were surrounding Nyquist are a lot more mature. It felt really good to be the (Derby) favorite. I felt it was a real honor. Part of me was, `God, I want to represent Nyquist in the proper way.’ I think the whole crew did a pretty good job, so it felt good being the favorite.”

Nyquist is expected to have a light training schedule between now and the Preakness.

“He’s way too fit already,” said Leandro Mora, O’Neill’s chief assistant. “I don’t think we’re going to push it as much as a few others. We found what he likes to do.”

Five of Nyquist’s eight wins have come in prestigious Grade 1 races. His latest victory boosted his earnings to $4,954,200, which includes a $1 million bonus for winning the Florida Derby in his previous start.

The colt is the third straight Southern California-based horse to win the Derby, and the fourth in five years. I’ll Have Another started the run. Nyquist was the fourth consecutive wagering favorite to win, too.

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.

Six three-year-olds nominated late to Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas, is among six 3-year-olds made eligible to compete in the Triple Crown series during the late nomination period.

The late nominees, which required a payment of $6,000 each, raise the total nominations to 425 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The late nomination period closed Monday. The early nomination window closed in January and required a payment of $600.

Ireland-bred Thunder Snow, owned by Godolphin Racing, is set to run Saturday in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. The colt has three wins in seven career starts for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The other late nominees are Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart; More Than Words, trained by Charlie LoPresti; Parlor, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Rapid Dial, trained by Ingrid Mason; and Stretch’s Stone, trained by Bruce Levine.

Thoroughbreds that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown have one final chance by paying a supplemental fee. The fee for the Derby is $200,000; $150,000 for the Preakness; and $75,000 for the Belmont.