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Kentucky Derby Preview: Nyquist Looks Ready To Wear Roses

By Kevin Martin

This year’s favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist, has raced seven times at four different tracks from California to Kentucky to Florida and has landed in the winner’s circle every time. Of the twenty expected to enter the gate for the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, he has already beaten seven of them head-to-head. He has a trainer and jockey with fresh memories of winning the Kentucky Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another. Nyquist is far and away the most accomplished entry in this year’s Kentucky Derby, but that won’t guarantee a thing when he faces off against nineteen rivals amidst the spectacle of the biggest event in American racing.

Major Contenders

Exaggerator will likely be the second choice in the betting coming off an impressive win over a sloppy track in the Santa Anita Derby last month. He has finished behind Nyquist three times in his nine race career. While he has been no match for Nyquist so far, his sire Curlin won multiple times at the 1 1/4 mile Derby distance. If Nyquist’s less than stellar breeding for the classic distance finally catches up with him, Exaggerator is the biggest threat to spring an upset.

MORE: Is Nyquist The Next American Pharoah?

Mohaymen ran the worst race of his career in his last start against Nyquist in the Florida Derby. Prior to that, he had won five in a row including four straight stakes races, He is regally bred with a graded stakes winning sire and dam. A lackluster performance fresh in the minds of bettors will likely result in inflated odds for Mohaymen. He is a talented colt with a legitimate chance to find the winner’s circle Saturday.

Mor Spirit scored two straight graded stakes wins before finishing second to Danzing Candy (see below) and Exaggerator in his most recent races. He has never been worse than second in seven career starts and is trained by Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert. His jockey, Gary Stevens, paired with Baffert to win the Kentucky Derby twenty years ago aboard Silver Charm. Mor Spirit is a member of the talented contingent of California-based runners and has the most accomplished human connections of any Derby starter.

Brody’s Cause finished three lengths behind Nyquist in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He ran terribly in his season debut in Tampa but bounced back to win the Blue Grass Stakes in his final prep for the Derby. He is one of many runners in the field that runs best from off the pace so he will need to weave through a significant number of horses to have a chance when they hit the stretch. His trainer, Louisville-native Dale Romans, has finished third in the Derby twice and Brody’s Cause is his most accomplished entry to date.

Live Longshots

Danzing Candy ran into some bad luck in the form of poor weather in the Santa Anita Derby, his most recent start where he finished a well beaten fourth. He set a fast pace over a sloppy track before tiring and finishing well behind Exaggerator and Mor Spirit. He had finished ahead of that same pair in winning the San Felipe Stakes prior to the Santa Anita Derby. With an abundance of late running closers and the lack of early speed horses entered in the Derby, his front running style could serve as a huge advantage. It would not surprise anyone should he lead the field into the final turn. He will pay his backers well should he carry his speed the full distance.

Mo Tom has had bad racing luck in his most recent starts, running into traffic trouble in the stretch in both the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby. If he had better trips, it’s possible he’d be riding a three race winning streak as he preceded those last two starts with a win in the LeComte Stakes. His trainer, Tom Amoss, is keeping jockey Corey Lanerie aboard for the Kentucky Derby even though many blamed the rider for Mo Tom’s trouble. He is one of many late closers in the field but is due some good luck and will have a jockey as determined as any to give his horse a clean trip.

To learn more about thoroughbred racing, check out Hello Race Fans.

Kevin Martin is the founder of the thoroughbred racing history site Colin's Ghost and a contributing editor at Hello Race Fans.

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