On Saturday, at historic Churchill Downs, Nyquist became just the eighth horse to win the garland of roses at Churchill Downs and stay unbeaten in the process. He has won all eight of his career starts. The 2 3/4 length win over Exaggerator was the 13th fastest in the 142 Derby’s. Up next is the Preakness Stakes on May 21, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. He shipped out of Churchill on Monday. Trainer Doug O’Neill, jockey Mario Gutierrez and owner Paul Reddam also won the Derby and the Preakness in 2012 with I’ll Have Another. Nyquist joins Street Sense as the only horses to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then the Kentucky Derby the next year. Only Seattle Slew in 1977, completed the Triple Crown without losing a race. Following are the reactions from assistant trainer Jack Sisterson, Gutierrez and Reddam.
How did the horse look the day after running a mile and a quarter for the first time?
Sisterson: That’s him, he runs his race every time and comes out in great shape. Moving forward and on to the next one.
Did he surprise you at all with the way he ran and won the race?
Sisterson: We’ve always been amazed with this horse. To this day we still can’t figure him out. Every day we wake up, and he teaches us something new. We’re just fortunate to be around him.
How crazy was it when he crossed the finish line?
Sisterson: Your heart starts racing and it just, everything is in slow motion. You see him at the top of the stretch, and he makes his move and the last eighth of a mile, it’s just all slow motion. I can’t explain the feeling really.
What is the plan for now?
Sisterson: We’ll spend the two weeks in Baltimore, and, fingers crossed, we’ll move on to New York.
What did you learn about the Preakness the last time you went there with a Derby winner?
Sisterson: When you’re working with good horses, they make our jobs much easier. Shipping in for the two weeks to get over the surface every day and things like that. Doug has done a fantastic job of keeping the horses happy and the staff as well.
What is the feeling like to do it again?
Gutierrez: It feels unreal, like a dream. You have all the nerves, all the adrenaline and all the excitement going into the race, and then you win it, and then it’s like, did it really happen? Very, very blessed.
Were you surprised?
Gutierrez: We all believe he did it, but when your hopes and dreams translate into reality, it’s a different thing.
Did everything work out perfectly right out of the gate?
Gutierrez: He broke out of the gate with a good energy. I give a lot of credit to him because he relaxed and allowed Danzing Candy to go the lead, and we just sit chilly behind Mike Smith, and at that point, I was pretty confident. I knew if I had the horse I thought we were going to be okay.
Did you see Exaggerator charging late?
Gutierrez: I looked around like four times, and I finally, if you see the replay, I eased up on him probably like half a 1/16th before the wire. Regardless who is coming, it would have to be like a freight train to pass me. I knew my horse wasn’t slowing down, he was just maintaining his gallop out, so I was pretty confident.
Why go to Baltimore two days after the Derby?
Reddam: A lot of trainers would stay here and train for the next week or week and a half. In Doug’s mind, he thinks, OK, this chapter is done. Let’s move on to the next chapter. He doesn’t believe that we have to get a work in over the racetrack. The view is they either like it or they don’t. Seeing the surroundings a little bit is helpful.
Photo by JAMES EATON