Those California horses sure love the Kentucky Derby. And there’s not a beach anywhere near Churchill Downs — only a winner’s circle, a blanket of roses and a place in the history books.
Led by unbeaten and top-rated Nyquist, the AP’s latest Run to the Roses Top 10 features four Derby-bound 3-year-olds based at Santa Anita Park. The others are No. 3 Exaggerator, No. 4 Mor Spirit and No. 10 Danzing Candy.
For those who like the trend, there’s this: three of the last four Derby winners were based in Southern California — American Pharoah, California Chrome and I’ll Have Another.
Nyquist put his hooves in the water in South Florida for one race, and overpowered Mohaymen in the Florida Derby in a showdown of unbeatens a few weeks ago. Since then, the bay colt has been training for the Derby at Keeneland, about 75 miles from Churchill Downs.
He galloped around Keeneland on Monday morning, with a timed workout set for the end of the week. Trainer Doug O’Neill’s assistant Jack Sisterson said Nyquist “couldn’t look any better.”
Gun Runner, holding firm at No. 2 for trainer Steve Asmussen, worked 5 furlongs in 1:00 at Churchill Downs on Monday with regular rider Florent Geroux aboard.
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“I thought that he handled the racetrack very well and I’m obviously very excited about our opportunities,” said Asmussen, who also trains Arkansas Derby winner Creator — checking in at No. 9 this week. “He’s a tremendous individual as far as conformation and pedigreewise and he’s got a great attitude. He’s very energetic as far as training goes.”
The big news earlier Monday was Cupid being declared out of the Derby after coming out of the Arkansas Derby with a breathing problem known as an entrapped epiglottis. Winner of the Rebel last month, the gray colt trained by Bob Baffert finished 10th in Saturday’s race.
The Derby preps are over, and all roads lead to Louisville, Kentucky for the Derby on May 7. If more than the limit of 20 horses are entered, the field will be determined by qualifying points.
With Cupid out of the picture, Mo Tom moves into the No. 20 spot. The next horse up if another is withdrawn is Fellowship.
Here’s our Top 10:
1. Nyquist (Doug O’Neill, trainer; Mario Gutierrez, jockey): With prep season over, here’s your morning-line Derby favorite. … Resume rocks at 7 for 7, including BC Juvenile and Florida Derby. … Galloped at Keeneland on Monday. … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 7. … Derby odds: 3-1.
2. Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux): Your points leader at 151, Louisiana Derby winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 at Churchill on Monday. … Has four wins in five races. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 13-1.
3. Exaggerator (Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux): Santa Anita Derby winners have won two of last four Derbys. … Hall of Fame jockey seeks fourth Derby win. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 27-1.
4. Mor Spirit (Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens): Triple Crown-winning trainer down to final Derby bullet after Cupid declared out. … Ran second in Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 11-1.
5. Brody’s Cause (Dale Romans, Luis Saez): If Derby front-runners tire in stretch, Blue Grass winner has a chance. … Three wins all came in state of Kentucky. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 10-1 (mutuel field).
6. Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado): Lost his buzz after running fourth in Florida Derby. … Still has a 5-for-6 record. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 13-1.
7. Outwork (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Wood winner is son of popular sire Uncle Mo. … Last Wood-Derby was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 30-1.
8. Destin (Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Eight-week layoff for Tampa Bay Derby winner. … Has three wins in five starts. … Top rider has mount so colt cannot be overlooked. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 16-1.
9. Creator (Asmussen, Ricardo Santana): Last-to-first winner of Arkansas Derby gives trainer second contender. … Still a likely long shot with two wins from nine starts. .. Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 58-1.
10. Danzing Candy (Cliff Sise Jr., Mike Smith): Moves back in based on San Felipe win, fourth-place finish in Santa Anita Derby. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 16-1.
Keep an eye on: Lani, My Man Sam, Mo Tom, Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore.