THE SEARCH FOR a Kentucky Derby favorite in the year after American Pharoah's drought-ending Triple Crown moved to South Florida last Saturday, where Nyquist was flown in to take on Mohaymen in a West vs. East battle of unbeatens. The Florida Derby showdown fizzled, but a clear favorite emerged: Nyquist scored an impressive 3¼-length victory, while Mohaymen finished a dull fourth.
Nyquist went to the lead under jockey Mario Gutierrez, shook off two long shots who pressured him on the front end, and then kicked away in the stretch, showing the type of tactical speed, competitiveness and stamina that will make him a major threat in the Derby on May 7. Team Nyquist includes trainer Doug O'Neill and owner Paul Reddam, who together won the Derby and Preakness with I'll Have Another in 2012. (A Red Wings fan, Reddam named his horse after Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist.) He will come to the Derby as the first unbeaten 2-year-old champion since Seattle Slew won the Derby—and the Triple Crown—in 1977.
More prep races and more challengers remain. Bob Baffert, who trained American Pharoah, will send out Mor Spirit in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby and Cupid in the April 16 Arkansas Derby. Both are solid threats. And on March 26, Gun Runner won the Louisiana Derby to lock up a spot at Churchill Downs. For now, though, they are all chasing Nyquist.
HORSEPHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (NYQUIST)