Derby winner Nyquist heads to Preakness; new rivals await

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist heads to Baltimore on Monday to prepare for the Preakness, where the undefeated colt could face up to 13 rivals including nine new shooters seeking to derail his Triple Crown bid.

Nyquist had been walked, bathed and returned to his stall at Churchill Downs by 6 a.m. Sunday, less than 12 hours after he won the Derby by 1 1/4 lengths and improved his record to 8-0. Trainer Doug O’Neill had already gone back to Southern California for a few days before returning east to rejoin his bay colt at Pimlico.

O’Neill told a track official that Nyquist was “doing great” and “looking bright-eyed” the morning after. The colt is the first unbeaten Derby winner with eight victories since Majestic Prince in 1969.

He will put that record on the line in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 21 against a mix of old and new rivals. The field is limited to 14 horses.

Derby runner-up Exaggerator, who has lost all four meetings with Nyquist, and ninth-place finisher Lani, who was beaten 10 3/4 lengths, are expected to return in the Preakness. Also possible are third-place Derby finisher Gun Runner, who was beaten by 4 1/2 lengths, and Suddenbreakingnews, who was fifth.

The newcomers are Laoban and Cherry Wine, who were both entered in the Derby but didn’t get in the race; Lexington Stakes winner Collected, trained by Bob Baffert; Federico Tesio winner Awesome Speed; Stradivari, trained by Todd Pletcher; and California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino.

Also under consideration are Pat Day Mile winner Sharp Azteca; Wood Memorial third-place finisher Adventist; and Florida Derby third-place finisher Fellowship.

Keith Desormeaux, who trains Exaggerator, said he would like a rematch in the Preakness.

“He was the closest threat,” said J. Paul Reddam, who owns Nyquist. “If I were him, I would want a rematch too. The horses are not machines, so it will be a great race.”

Reddam, O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez enjoyed their second Derby victory, having won in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

“There was no wild, drunken party,” said Steve Rothblum, manager for Reddam Racing. “With a horse this good, we wanted to treat it with respect and the reverence that we owe the horse.”

I’ll Have Another also won the Preakness that year but was retired on the eve of the Belmont with a leg injury.

Nyquist is following a schedule similar to I’ll Have Another, who also spent the two weeks leading up to the Preakness at Pimlico. Nyquist came into Louisville a week before the Derby after training at Keeneland in nearby Lexington.

“This year we are a lot more mature,” O’Neill said. “The people that were surrounding Nyquist are a lot more mature. It felt really good to be the (Derby) favorite. I felt it was a real honor. Part of me was, `God, I want to represent Nyquist in the proper way.’ I think the whole crew did a pretty good job, so it felt good being the favorite.”

Nyquist is expected to have a light training schedule between now and the Preakness.

“He’s way too fit already,” said Leandro Mora, O’Neill’s chief assistant. “I don’t think we’re going to push it as much as a few others. We found what he likes to do.”

Five of Nyquist’s eight wins have come in prestigious Grade 1 races. His latest victory boosted his earnings to $4,954,200, which includes a $1 million bonus for winning the Florida Derby in his previous start.

The colt is the third straight Southern California-based horse to win the Derby, and the fourth in five years. I’ll Have Another started the run. Nyquist was the fourth consecutive wagering favorite to win, too.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

Betway Challow Hurdle Day - Newbury Racecourse
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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.