Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will miss the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 11 after he was found to have an elevated white blood cell count, trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed Tuesday.
Blood was tested on the reigning juvenile male champion Monday after he was found to have a 102-degree temperature less than 48 hours after he ran third in the 141st Preakness Stakes on Saturday, his first loss in nine career starts. The temperature initially subsided when he was treated with a light antibiotic, but O’Neill said it spiked Tuesday, and that the elevated white count suggested an infection might be brewing.
“He is out (of the Belmont Stakes),” O’Neill said when reached by the Herald-Leader. “He has an elevated white count and his actual temperature has come back up a bit; it’s like 101 and change. Now we have to get stronger with the antibiotics.
“We always want to do right by him, and the right move is to chill and relax and not even think about a race until he gets right. At this point, once he’s right, we’ll get him back to California and gear up for another race, wherever that is.”
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Nyquist was found to have an elevated white cell count shortly after shipping from Florida to Kentucky after his victory in the Grade I Florida Derby on April 2. The son of Uncle Mo never did spike a fever in that instance, however, and he went on to capture the Kentucky Derby by 1¼ lengths over his eventual Preakness conqueror, Exaggerator.
O’Neill said Nyquist will be treated with a heavier course of antibiotics and will remain in Baltimore until he is “100 percent healthy.”
“We had him on a real light antibiotic and a little Banamine, and that obviously isn’t going to cut it for this kind of bug, whatever it is,” O’Neill said. “I know he was showing all signs before the race that he was going to keep his win streak alive, and here we are now.”
This is the second time the final leg of the Triple Crown has brought some heartache to O’Neill and Paul Reddam, owner of Nyquist. In 2012, the O’Neill-trained and Reddam-owned dual classic winner I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before that year’s Belmont Stakes with a career-ending leg injury.
“No worries, we’ll be back there,” said the optimistic O’Neill, who celebrated his birthday Tuesday. “I just can’t wait for Nyquist to get back to 100 percent and start making up a new plan for him. He won’t get on a plane until he is 100 percent.”
Nyquist has won eight of nine career starts, including five Grade I races, with $5,119,200 in earnings.
Exaggerator, whose Preakness triumph marked the first time he had defeated Nyquist in five meetings, went back to the track at Pimlico on Tuesday morning and is slated to ship to New York for the Belmont Stakes on Sunday.
When: June 11
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.