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

Leave a comment

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.”

World’s No. 1 horse Arrogate returns to racing at Del Mar

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arrogate is returning to racing after a nearly four-month layoff with a bulls-eye on his back.

The 4-year-old colt ranked the world’s No. 1 horse brings a seven-race winning streak into the San Diego Handicap on Saturday at Del Mar. He won the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic last year, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup in January and the $10 million Dubai World Cup in his last start on March 25.

His career earnings of $17,084,600 are a North American record.

So what’s a big-shot like him doing in a $300,000 stakes?

It’s a tuneup for more prestigious races later on and the first of three potential starts the colt will make at the seaside track north of San Diego. Arrogate’s target this summer is the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19. This fall, he will defend his title in the BC Classic, which he won last year at Santa Anita.

The field for the Grade 2 San Diego was reduced to five on Friday when trainer Keith Desormeaux decided to run Dalmore in Sunday’s $75,000 Wickerr Stakes instead of taking on Arrogate.

That leaves Accelerate, Cat Burglar, El Huerfano and Donworth to challenge Arrogate, who figures to be the odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race. Bob Baffert trains both Arrogate and Cat Burglar.

Arrogate will carry high weight of 126 pounds, including Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. The colt is spotting Cat Burglar eight pounds, Accelerate nine pounds, Donworth 10 pounds and El Huerfano 11 pounds. In a handicap race, weights are assigned by the racing secretary.

Arrogate hasn’t carried that much weight since winning a minor race at Del Mar last summer. After that, he grabbed the sport’s attention with a record 13 +-length victory in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. It’s been one big-money victory after another ever since.

The colt has distanced himself from the competition in ways not seen in racing recently.

He knocked off fan favorite and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome in the BC Classic and beat Chrome again in the Pegasus World Cup. Traveling thousands of miles to Dubai didn’t faze Arrogate, either. Despite a poor start out of the gate, he went on to victory in the desert.

Baffert has masterfully managed Arrogate’s career for owner Juddmonte Farm, with the Hall of Fame trainer carefully picking his spots and the colt’s performance backing him up every time. His only loss came in his career debut when he finished third.

Still, Baffert knows better than most what it’s like leading a world-beater to the track only to watch him lose.

That’s what happened two years ago, when American Pharoah was stunned by Keen Ice in the Travers barely two months after becoming horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

And Arrogate’s rivals are spoiling for a similar upset at Del Mar.

“One great thing about this sport is that they’re not machines,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains Donworth. “As much as Arrogate looks unbeatable, they all are beatable. If he’s not feeling it on Saturday and we are, we’ll shock the world.”

Irap wins Indiana Derby; AJ Foyt’s horse finishes 2nd

AP Photo
Leave a comment

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. — Irap won the $500,000 Indiana Derby by five lengths over Colonelsdarkemper, owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt.

Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Irap ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.21 on Saturday night at Indiana Grand. He paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.60 in the Grade 3 race for 3-year-olds. Irap is trained by Southern California-based Doug O’Neill.

Colonelsdarktemper returned $9.60 and $5.80, while Untrapped was another length back in third and paid $2.80 to show.

Foyt is in Toronto for this weekend’s IndyCar race, so he sent grandson A.J. Foyt IV to the track outside Indianapolis.

“He’s always shown a lot of heart and he showed it tonight,” the younger Foyt said about the colt. “He ran a great race.”

The younger Foyt works in the Indianapolis Colts’ front office. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, where his father Tony trained horses.

“Horse racing holds a special place in my heart, and I’m glad my grandfather still has it going on,” A.J. IV said.