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.

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.