He’s here! Kentucky Derby champ Nyquist arrives at Pimlico

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BALTIMORE — When it comes to selecting a stall for his Kentucky Derby winner at Pimlico Race Course, trainer Doug O’Neill doesn’t care much for tradition.

He’d rather go with his own tested method for success.

Unbeaten Nyquist arrived at Pimlico on Monday and was eased into Stall 24 of the Stakes Barn with six other horses trained by O’Neill.

The Kentucky Derby winner is usually kept in highly regarded Stall 40 of the Preakness Barn, home of several Triple Crown champions, including Secretariat and Seattle Slew.

O’Neill spurned Stall 40 in 2012 with Derby winner I’ll Have Another, choosing instead to keep the horse in the Stakes Barn.

I’ll Have Another won the Preakness, and Nyquist’s handlers can only hope this horse does likewise.

“It really keeps the horses happy. It worked with I’ll Have Another and we’re going to do the same thing with Nyquist,” assistant trainer Jack Sisterson said.

Nyquist improved to 8-0 after winning by 1 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. He will seek to make in nine a row in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 21.

Nyquist was transported by plane from Kentucky on Monday afternoon. He covered the final leg of the trip with a police escort from Baltimore-Washington International Airport before being led to the barn shortly after 6:30 p.m.

It isn’t often that the Derby winner arrives so soon in Baltimore, but that’s what O’Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam did four years ago and the strategy proved sound.

“We can do anything with Nyquist,” Sisterson said. “It worked with I’ll Have Another. So we kept kind of the same routine and got him over here early. He gets acclimated and he gets to turn over the stuff he’ll run on.”

The plan is to go easy on the horse this week.

“He’ll walk the next couple days and then we’ll get him back to the track jogging,” Sisterson said. “Then he’ll do like we’ve done his whole career. He jogs one day and then gallops the next.

“We won’t change anything. Again, the beauty with Nyquist mentally is that whatever we put in front of him, he handles it. His whole career, we’ve kept him on the same training routine, and we’re not going to change it now.”

Sisterson will oversee the care and training of Nyquist until O’Neill arrives on Thursday.

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming to skip Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK — Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming will skip the Belmont Stakes next month after finishing eighth in the Preakness.

Trainer Todd Pletcher says the 3-year-old colt will be pointed toward either the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29 or the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 30, according to the Daily Racing Form.

Trainer Chad Brown says he will wait until after the Memorial Day weekend to announce where Preakness winner Cloud Computing will run next. However, it appears unlikely he will run in the Belmont.

The Belmont field is limited to 16 starters. Besides Classic Empire, who came in second at the Preakness Stakes, other horses expected to run are Conquest Mo Money, Japan-based Epicharis, Gormley, Irap, J Boys Echo, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, Multiple, Patch, Senior Investment, Tapwrit, True Timber and Twisted Tom. Other possibilities are Irish War Cry and Hollywood Handsome.

With no Triple Crown in play, Belmont lacks a singular buzz

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BALTIMORE — Cloud Computing stole the Preakness, and any hope of a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

The 13-1 shot did it on six weeks’ rest, having skipped the 20-horse roughhouse that is the Kentucky Derby even though he had enough points to get in that race. With another three weeks until the Belmont in New York, Cloud Computing could return to run on his home track.

“We haven’t ruled it out,” trainer Chad Brown said Sunday. “We’re just going to evaluate the horse this week and probably by next weekend we may have a decision.”

Cloud Computing didn’t race as a 2-year-old because of injury, so he is among the freshest horses out there.

Brown prefers to give his horses a month or more between starts. Trainer Todd Pletcher also favors long layoffs, although he made an exception to run Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming back in two weeks. The colt responded with an eighth-place finish – the worst of his career – on Saturday.

“He looks good, bright, alert, sound, healthy, happy,” Pletcher said. “We’ll head to Belmont and regroup.”

If the Derby and Preakness winners skip the Belmont on June 10, the likely favorite would be Classic Empire, who was runner-up Saturday after finishing fourth in the Derby.

It would be the first time since 2010 that neither the Derby nor Preakness winner run in the Belmont. That year, Derby winner Super Saver, trained by Pletcher, and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky sat out the third leg.

Trainer Mark Casse said Classic Empire is being pointed toward the Belmont, barring any unforeseen developments.

“He was a better horse yesterday than he was two weeks ago for the Kentucky Derby,” he said.

Among other horses likely for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont – the longest of the Triple Crown races – are: Senior Investment (third in Preakness), Lookin At Lee (fourth in Preakness) and Japanese invader Epicharis.

Lookin At Lee finished second in the Derby, when Classic Empire was fourth.

Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee would face off for the sixth time in the Belmont, and they could be the only horses to run in all three Triple Crown races. Classic Empire has three victories against Lookin At Lee, including this year’s Arkansas Derby.

“You’re looking at horses that traveled at 2, ran at as high a level as we have, so you’re not surprised,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Lookin At Lee and won last year’s Belmont with Creator.

“They’ve been able to maintain themselves physically. That puts them in a different position than horses who have not consistently run on that stage.”

Possible Belmont starters are Multiplier (sixth in Preakness) and Conquest Mo Money (seventh in Preakness). Gunnevera (fifth in Preakness) and Hence (ninth in Preakness) won’t run in the Belmont.

Epicharis, one of the top 3-year-olds in Japan, will make his North American debut in the $1.5 million Belmont. That would make him eligible for a new $1 million bonus offered by the New York Racing Association to any Japan-based winner of the race. The winner’s share of the purse is $800,000.

Epicharis would be the second Japanese horse to run in the Belmont. Last year, Lani finished third after running in all three legs of the Triple Crown.