The undefeated Nyquist did Saturday what many people thought he would, sitting just off the pace, taking over in the stretch and winning the Kentucky Derby by a comfortable margin.
But what happened to the other 19 horses during that two minutes and change at Churchill Downs? Here’s a closer look at the fates of the rest of the field:
Just short … again
Exaggerator had faced Nyquist three times before Saturday, a rivalry that began with a 5-furlong maiden race in California last June, the first career start for both colts.
Nyquist defeated Exaggerator that day, again in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland in October, and once more in the San Vicente Stakes in February.
Each time, Exaggerator got a little closer, and he came into the Kentucky Derby fresh off a dominating performance in the Santa Anita Derby four weeks ago that gave his backers the hope that he could finally turn the tables on Nyquist.
Exaggerator got even closer this time but fell just short again.
The son of Curlin broke well under jockey Kent Desormeaux but seemed to be a little bothered by long shot Tom’s Ready to his immediate outside in the opening stages of the race. Exaggerator was OK from there and settled into his customary spot in the back of the pack.
Desormeaux moved Exaggerator down to the rail going into the final turn after checking up behind a fading Majesto. “My horse slammed on the brakes,” he said.
Desormeaux found a hole heading into the stretch and swung him wide into open space.
Exaggerator gobbled up ground in the stretch as Desormeaux angled back toward the rail. He was gaining on Nyquist at the end but was beaten 1¼ lengths at the finish line.
Nyquist owner Paul Reddam was asked if he’d like a rematch with the Derby runner-up two weeks from now in the Preakness.
“A rematch?” Reddam deadpanned. “I would’ve thought he was sick of us by now.”
No run at the end
Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner came out of the gate first under jockey Florent Geroux, who settled him into a prime spot on the rail in third behind pace-setter Danzing Candy and Nyquist.
Gun Runner raced alongside Nyquist on the backstretch and led the field into the stretch from an inside position.
Nyquist quickly overtook Gun Runner once they were pointed toward the finish line. Gun Runner was passed by Exaggerator with about 100 yards to go and just held on for third place over the fast-closing duo of Mohaymen and Suddenbreakingnews.
The onetime favorite
Until his Florida Derby dud, Mohaymen was seen as the probable Kentucky Derby favorite. He finished fourth behind Nyquist that day.
Mohaymen, who usually sits right off the leaders, broke a little slow and was mid-pack and several lengths behind heading into the first turn.
“Coming into the first turn he was getting into a nice rhythm, but I was too far back,” jockey Junior Alvarado said. “I didn’t want to be there, but that’s where he was.”
Mohaymen found a nice spot on the inside, Alvarado was forced to take him wide into the stretch, and they finished well, holding off Suddenbreakingnews for fourth.
Alvarado implied that his race was lost in the first half-mile.
“He was too far back with too much to do,” he said.
Suddenbreakingnews — a 24-1 shot who is used to coming from way off the pace — had a dicey start from the No. 2 post as horses broke toward the inside and forced him to check.
He was 19th most of the way around and had only three horses beat with just a quarter-mile to go. Luis Quiñonez took him to the rail out of the final turn and was then forced to angle him wide around a wall of horses early in the stretch.
Once in the clear, Suddenbreakingnews unleashed a rally and finished fifth, just missing out on a three-horse photo finish for third with Gun Runner and Mohaymen.
“Oh my God, we had a lot of traffic to deal with,” Quinonez said. “He was there. He was running. He was flying.”
The early speed
As expected, Danzing Candy set the early fractions after breaking from the 20 hole and racing across the rest of the field toward the inside of the track.
He was 4 lengths clear of Nyquist after running the first half-mile in :45.72 and surrendered the lead to Gun Runner in the final turn.
Danzing Candy was a tiring third coming into the stretch and faded to 15th.
Jockey Mike Smith said he was breathing irregularly in the stretch. “When I pulled him up, he sounded like a lion.”
▪ Destin broke a little slowly, was briefly in third place in the stretch and faded to sixth.
▪ Mo Tom found traffic and finished eighth.
▪ Santa Anita Derby runner-up Mor Spirit was never in contention and finished 10th for trainer Bob Baffert. Jockey Gary Stevens said he might not have liked the track after the pre-Derby rainstorm.
▪ Arkansas Derby winner Creator looked to have plenty left but checked hard coming out of the final turn and finished 13th. “I think that without that trouble, he was running big,” jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said.
▪ Emisael Jaramillo, jockey of 18th-place Majesto, said his horse didn’t like the track.
▪ Jockey Victor Espinoza said 19th-place Whitmore was “spinning his wheels” the entire race.
▪ Shagaf was pulled up before the finish line. “He was so tired,” jockey Joel Rosario said.
None of the other jockeys had any comments afterward.