Nyquist loses for 1st time, finishing 3rd in Preakness

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BALTIMORE — Doug O’Neill was clapping feverishly as Nyquist charged to the finish line, a Triple Crown still within striking distance.

Finally, when it became apparent that Exaggerator had finally gotten the best of Nyquist, O’Neill dropped his hands to his side and shrugged his shoulders in defeat.

It was a scenario that had never occurred before. Eight times previously, O’Neill, the confident trainer of Nyquist, ended up in the winner’s circle with his talented colt.

Not Saturday, not in this Preakness. Exaggerator gained the lead in the stretch against a fading champion and won the race by 3 1/2 lengths.

Nyquist finished third, a nose behind Cherry Wine.

“I didn’t think we could get beat, to be honest with you,” O’Neill said. “Nyquist is such an amazing horse. He still ran a great race.”

In the two weeks since he won the Kentucky Derby, O’Neill rattled off the virtues of his unbeaten star. The public bought into it: Not only was Nyquist the 3-5 betting favorite, but a record crowd of 135,256 showed up in miserable weather.

O’Neill insisted on Friday that rain wouldn’t be a factor, and perhaps it wasn’t. But for the first time in nine career races, Nyquist ran on a sloppy track.

And for the first time, he lost.

“We’ll kind of figure this all out, watch some replays,” O’Neill said.

Four times previously, Nyquist beat Exaggerator. Someone asked Exaggerator trainer Keith Desormeaux if his horse finally wore down Nyquist.

“I always felt we had an exceptional talent in Exaggerator,” Desormeaux said. “It’s not someone who needs to grind down his opponent.”

O’Neill, Nyquist jockey Mario Gutierrez and owner Paul Reddam teamed in 2012 to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another.

On this day, they had to settle for third.

“I really didn’t get a chance to talk to Mario,” O’Neill said. “But Nyquist still ran a huge race. Big effort.”

Winning jockey Kent Desormeaux wondered if Nyquist was done in by taking a difficult path to the finish line.

“I think Nyquist had company all the around the course,” the jockey said. “They stayed really wide. These turns, you want to paint the fence. We did, they didn’t and, not for nothing, but knowledge is power.”

Gutierrez said, “I could feel Exaggerator coming. There was nothing we could do. We tried but just didn’t get there.”

Afterward, O’Neill was stunned to have lost but grateful to have gone this far with an undefeated horse.

“It’s a bummer, of course,” he said. “I can’t wait to see him in a little bit, give him a big kiss and pat him on the head because he’s still a winner in our book

“They’re not machines. Being 8 for 8, we kept thinking that this horse is never going to lose. But they all lose one time or another. We’ll be OK.”

If all goes as planned, the Nyquist and Exaggerator will meet again at the Belmont on June 11.

“It looked like he came back to be unsaddled in good shape,” O’Neill said. “So maybe we’ll try again.”

2017 Kentucky Derby: Mike Tirico succeeds Tom Hammond

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STAMFORD, Conn. – Mike Tirico, who was recently named NBC’s primetime Olympics host, will be taking the Triple Crown hosting reins from Tom Hammond, an award-winning member of NBC Sports’ horse racing team for more than three decades.

Tune in to watch live coverage of the 2017 Kentucky Derby at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 6, on NBC.

“NBC Sports is the home to the world’s premier horse racing, due in no small part to Tom’s passion, knowledge and relationships in the sport,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman NBC Broadcasting and Sports. “We are pleased that Tom is going to remain part of the NBC family and that we have someone of Mike’s caliber to succeed him on horse racing.”

Next week on NBCSN, Hammond will host the special 30-minute My Kentucky Home, in which he takes a look at how Kentucky came to be the home of thoroughbred racing. Hammond, who has covered a dozen Olympics, will return to NBC Olympics’ coverage at the 2018 PyeongChang Games next February.

Tirico, making his first-ever trip to a Triple Crown event, joins NBC Sports Group’s Triple Crown coverage beginning with the 2017 Kentucky Derby on May 6 on NBC, and will work the Preakness Stakes on May 20, and the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

“Tom’s professionalism, presence and passion for the sport enhanced Triple Crown viewing for so many of us over the years,” said Tirico, who made his TV horse racing debut alongside Hammond last fall on NBC’s coverage of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. “He perfectly set the tone and in the process set the standard for this role.  I’m honored to follow a legend and cherish the chance to work with our great team.”

Hammond’s TV horse racing debut came in 1984, when he was hired on what was intended to be a one-time-only basis as a reporter for NBC’s telecast of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Ever since that Eclipse Award-winning telecast, Hammond has been integral on a wide-range of NBC Sports events, highlighted by horse racing – covering his home-state Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes 16 times apiece, and 11 Belmont Stakes, including American Pharoah’s historic Triple Crown victory in 2015. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Kentucky, where he earned bachelor’s degree in animal science and studied equine genetics as a graduate student, Hammond has also anchored NBC’s Breeders’ Cup coverage over the past 30+ years.

“I had a great time putting together My Kentucky Home, and I hope viewers will understand why I think this is a special place,” Hammond said. “As I embark on a less demanding schedule at NBC, I can rest assured that the coverage of Thoroughbred racing is in good hands. That sport is very close to my heart, so I am pleased that Mike, a highly accomplished professional, will assume the role as leader of the superb NBC horse racing team. I wish them all the best going forward.”

Hammond’s 30-minute My Kentucky Home special will debut on NBCSN next Wednesday, May 3 at 12:30 a.m. ET following Tuesday night’s St. Louis-Nashville Stanley Cup Playoff game. The special will encore on NBCSN on Wednesday, May 3 at 5 p.m. ET, Thursday, May 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET and on Friday May 5 within NBCSN’s live Kentucky Oaks coverage and following that evening’s Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Jockeys Castellano, Espinoza, Gomez, throughbred Goldikova elected to HOF

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) Jockeys Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza and Garrett Gomez and thoroughbred Goldikova have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.

The 39-year-old Castellano has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey the past four years. Entering the week, he had 4,664 career wins and was ranked fifth all-time in purse earnings, with more than $276 million.

The 44-year-old Espinoza had 3,318 wins entering the week, with purse earnings of more than $193 million, which ranks him 17th all-time. He won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2015 aboard American Pharoah.

Gomez, who died last year, won 3,769 races, with purse earnings of more than $205 million to rank 14th all-time.

Goldikova posted a career record of 17-6-3 from 27 starts to earn $7,176,551. The filly is the only three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner (2008-10).

The induction ceremony is Aug. 4 in Saratoga Springs, New York.