Having already proven he loves Keeneland, Brody’s Cause won Keeneland’s biggest race on Saturday, bringing the heat on a chilly afternoon to capture the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
And yet the most important news from Keeneland on Saturday happened that morning. After an elevated white cell count scrapped his scheduled Thursday trip to the surface, Nyquist stepped on the oval Saturday morning, fit as a fiddle, pointing himself directly at that little race Churchill Downs holds on the first Saturday in May.
Unless something unusual happens in the next four weeks, Nyquist will be the favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby. He’s unbeaten in seven starts. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland last October. Last Saturday, he won the Florida Derby, easily besting another (now formerly) unbeaten contender in Mohaymen. He’s trained by Doug O’Neill, who won the Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.
Is Nyquist the next American Pharoah? It seems premature to compare any 3-year-old to the super horse that just last year finally broke the sport’s 37-year Triple Crown drought.
“Nyquist isn’t getting the due he deserves,” said Dale Romans, who trains Brody’s Cause. “It’s been since Seattle Slew I think since an undefeated 2-year-old champion comes into the Kentucky Derby. He’s the reigning 3-year-old that we’re all chasing. But we’ll see what happens.”
Expect another full and diverse field to be in on the chase, including the winners of Saturday’s other two important Derby preps, both run in the mud.
After finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, Outwork turned in a strong performance to win the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The son of Uncle Mo is owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, the seven-time Eclipse Award winner who is still looking to repeat his 2010 Kentucky Derby win with Super Saver.
Nyquist isn’t getting the due he deserves. It’s been since Seattle Slew I think since an undefeated two-year-old champion comes into the Kentucky Derby. He’s the reigning 3-year-old that we’re all chasing. But we’ll see what happens.
Dale Romans, trainer of Brody’s Cause
Meanwhile, out in rainy California, Exaggerator made a huge move on the sloppy surface to win the Santa Anita Derby for the brothers Desormeaux, trainer Keith and jockey Kent. Not that the weather conditions had everything to do with the win. Exaggerator was third in the San Felipe on March 12.
There’s more, of course. There’s always more. Owned by Three Chimneys and Wichell Thoroughbreds, Gun Runner swept the Louisiana double, winning both the Risen Star on Feb. 20 and the Louisiana Derby on March 26 for trainer Steve Asmussen. He figures to be a factor.
Outwork won’t be the only Derby horse in Pletcher’s barn. Destin is taking the unusual path of training from his Tampa Bay Derby win right up to the Kentucky Derby, a span of seven weeks. Then again, over the years, giving his horses long layoff has brought Pletcher plenty of purse money over the years.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey will be in Louisville, thanks to Oscar Nominated’s win in last week’s Spiral Stakes at Turfway. Despite his puzzling showing in the Florida Derby, Mohaymen will be in Louisville, no doubt anxious to prove his Fountain of Youth win was closer to his true form.
Bob Baffert will show up, as well. Mor Spirit won the San Felipe and finished second in the Santa Anita slop. He’s trained by Baffert. Cupid won the Rebel and is the probable favorite for next week’s Arkansas Derby. He’s trained by Baffert.
Let us not forget Romans, who trained not only the Blue Grass winner but its third-place finisher in Cherry Wine. Both are headed to the Derby, a race Romans has tried to win six times over the past 10 years. His best finish was third with Paddy O’Prado in 2010 and Dullahan in 2012. Dullahan also won the Blue Grass.
“This is the best opportunity we’ve had,” Romans said of Brody’s Cause. “This is a prototype Derby horse, in my opinion. He has the pedigree. He has the looks. He has the turn of foot. He has the mindset. He has everything you want.”
Last year in Lexington, Brody’s Cause ran a strong third to Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. A month from now, he’ll be trying to beat him in Louisville. So will everyone else.
Kentucky Derby 142
When: Saturday, May 7
Where: Churchill Downs in Lousiville
TV: NBC from 4-7 p.m.