AP DERBY TOP 10: It’s still Nyquist, of course

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NEW YORK — And now, a few words about undefeated horses running in the Kentucky Derby – Nyquist, specifically.

After the 3-year-old colt blew away now once-beaten Mohaymen in winning the Florida Derby on Saturday, Nyquist boosted his record to 7-for-7.

The son of Uncle Mo again proved more than worthy of his No. 1 spot on the AP’s Top 10 list of Kentucky Derby contenders. He’s also the 3-1 favorite in the Derby’s final future wager odds.

As for becoming an unbeaten Derby winner, Nyquist will be bucking longer odds. Of the 26 unbeatens that entered the Derby starting gate in the past 100 years, seven were still undefeated after the Run for the Roses. That would put Nyquist’s odds of winning a little better than 4-1.

Nyquist, though, will be the first horse taking a 7-0 or better record into the Derby in 26 years – since Mister Frisky ran eighth in 1990 after winning 16 in a row (the first 13 in Puerto Rico). Big Brown in 2008, Barbaro in 2006 and Smarty Jones in 2004 all won the Derby, but came into the race with six or fewer wins.

Seattle Slew remains the only undefeated Triple Crown winner, coming into the races at 6-0 and then sweeping the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1977.

The other unbeaten Derby winners are Majestic Prince (1969), Morvich (1922) and Regret (1915).

RELATED: How to watch the Kentucky Derby

Onward to May 7.

Even with a fourth-place finish, Mohaymen still has five wins in six starts and doesn’t lose much ground this week, dropping one spot to No. 3. Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner moves up to No. 2, and Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert has No. 4 Cupid and No. 7 Mor Spirit.

Huge changes are likely after Saturday’s trio of Derby preps – Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

All three carry a total of 180 Derby qualifying points – 100 for first, 50 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. Finish first or second – maybe even third – and a spot in a full 20-horse field is all but set.

-The Wood features undefeated Shagaf (3-0) in a field that could total 10.

-The Santa Anita Derby will have a small but deep field in Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. Danzing Candy beat Mor Spirit in the San Felipe last month.

-The Blue Grass field keeps growing, with as many as 13 starters possible. Among them are Zulu, Brody’s Cause and American Dubai.

Wrapping up last weekend’s preps:

-The rare pre-Derby duel between best in the East (Mohaymen) and best in the West (Nyquist) was brief – and decisive. A brilliant ride by Nyquist jockey Mario Gutierrez appeared the big reason.

With Mohaymen racing outside of Nyquist, Gutierrez allowed Nyquist to drift further out coming around the far turn. That forced Junior Alvarado aboard Mohaymen even further outside toward the center of the track. At that point, Nyquist pulled away and beat Majesto by 3 1/4 lengths.

“I saw the gray horse (Mohaymen) coming and I decided if he was going to pass me,” Gutierrez said, “he was going to do it running wide.”

-At Turfway Park, 23-1 shot Oscar Nominated prevailed in the Spiral Stakes to earn 50 Derby qualifying points. Problem is he’ still not Triple Crown nominated. However, owner Ken Ramsey says the supplemental entry fee of $200,000 will be paid. He now tells the Courier-Journal that someone has accepted his offer and stepped forward to pay the fee for a chance to split any earnings the horse gets from Triple Crown races.

Here’s our Top 10:

1. Nyquist (Doug O’Neill, trainer; Mario Gutierrez, jockey): Won Florida Derby with ease over chief rival Mohaymen. … Will be first Derby starter unbeaten in seven or more starts since Mister Frisky in 1990. … Arrived at Keeneland to train. … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 7. … Derby odds (final future wager): 3-1.

2. Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux): Louisiana Derby winner may have what it takes to deal with big Derby field. … Worked 4 furlongs in 50.60 under Geroux at Churchill Downs on Monday. … Has four wins in five races. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 25-1.

3. Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado): Don’t give up on this talented gray colt. … Just didn’t kick in when taking on Nyquist in Florida Derby. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 13-1.

4. Cupid (Bob Baffert, Martin Garcia): Rebel winner loving Santa Anita before return to Arkansas. … Won last two starts after two career-opening losses. … Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park, April 16. … Odds: 11-1.

5. Danzing Candy (Cliff Sise Jr., Mike Smith): San Felipe winner has chance to move up with win this weekend. .. Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 at Santa Anita on Saturday. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Park, Saturday. … Odds: 16-1.

6. Shagaf (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr.): A Wood win and colt would come into Derby with 4-0 record. … Gotham winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.40 at Belmont on Saturday. … Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, Saturday. … Odds: 17-1.

7. Mor Spirit (Baffert, Gary Stevens): Looking to avenge San Felipe loss. … With Cupid and Mor Spirit, Baffert could have another 1-2 Derby punch. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby. … Odds: 11-1.

8. Lani (Mikio Matsunaga, Yutaka Take): UAE Derby winner settling in at Churchill Downs. … Bred in Kentucky, races in Japan. Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 25-1.

9. Destin (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Tampa Bay Derby winner looking to make it three in a row with win in final Derby prep. … Next start: Arkansas Derby … Odds: 16-1.

10. Zulu (Pletcher, John Velazquez): Fountain of Youth runner-up worked 4 furlongs in 49.07 at Palm Beach Downs on Saturday. … Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland, Saturday. … Odds: 34-1.

**Keep an eye on: Brody’s Cause, Exaggerator, Mo Tom, Outwork, Whitmore.**

 

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.