Unbeaten juvenile champion Nyquist put in a solid maintenance move in preparation for his expected start in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, covering 5 furlongs in 1:01.80 in company with stablemate Ralis at Keeneland Saturday morning.
With trainer Doug O’Neill watching from the stands, Nyquist broke off a handful of lengths behind Ralis to his inside as they began to two-minute lick — open gallop — around the first turn before getting more serious in the final five-eighths. Nyquist clocked splits of :12, :23.80 and :35.80 under exercise rider Jonny Garcia, rolling up to stick a head in front coming off the final turn and finishing up about a half-length in front with a gallop out in 1:18.
“We thought with him going in company, he would do it easier,” O’Neill said of Nyquist. “He’s so competitive and sometimes by himself, Jonny has to ask him a little bit so just thought it would be easier on him. And, man, he was strong early. … I’m very happy, Jonny is very happy and the horse looks great back (at the barn).”
O’Neill clocked Nyquist going a mile in 1:51 on his watch and has made longer, steadier works a regular part of the routine for the son of Uncle Mo. He added that Nyquist is slated to have his final pre-Kentucky Derby move at Keeneland next Saturday and would likely go through similar paces.
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“At this point, he’s fit and ready so we’re just strictly looking for maintenance,” O’Neill said. “We told Jonny to go in 1:01 and change and the clockers got him in 1:01 4/5. I don’t know (if) we’ll put him in company or not (next week). We’ll play that by ear.”
Owned by Reddam Racing, Nyquist is unbeaten in seven career starts and most recently captured the Grade I , $1 million Florida Derby by 3 1/4 lengths on April 2. His career earnings of $3,322,600 will make the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner the richest horse to ever start in the Kentucky Derby.
Cathryn Sophia now likely for Oaks
Multiple graded stakes winner Cathryn Sophia put herself closer to rejoining the mix for the Kentucky Oaks on May 6 thanks to a handy, five-furlong breeze in 59.60 at Keeneland Saturday morning.
The daughter of Street Boss suffered her first loss in five career starts earlier this month when she finished third, beaten by less than a half-length, in the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 9. In her first move since that outing, Cathryn Sophia had jockey Paco Lopez grinning after she clicked off splits of 11.60, :23, :35 with little effort and galloped out in 1:12.60.
“She just does whatever you want,” Lopez said. “She was so relaxed, no fighting, no nothing and she galloped out really good.”
After her loss in the 1 1/16 -mile Ashland, trainer John Servis said he thought distance may be an issue for the bay filly and was planning to point her to the Grade III Eight Belles Stakes, going 7 furlongs at Churchill Downs on May 6. With unbeaten champion Songbird now declared out of the Kentucky Oaks due to a low-grade fever, Servis has had a change of heart. He says he is leaning towards sending Cathryn Sophia into the 1 1/8 -mile Oaks instead.
“Paco said she worked sensational, he was crazy about her — which is good because he sits on a lot of nice horses,” Servis said. “(The work) was pretty much just what I wanted. I wanted her to work on her own and gallop out, which she did. As long as she comes out of it good, I’ll talk to (owner) Chuck (Zacney) today and I’m sure we’ll make a decision (on the Oaks) by the end of the night.
“I would say after that work, I’m leaning towards going (in the Oaks). Definitely.”
Owned by Cash is King LLC, Cathryn Sophia won her first four starts by a combined 41 1/2 lengths including victories in the Grade II Forward Gal and Grade II Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Servis said he could “blow her out a little bit” going into the race “but I’ll let her tell me.”
Land Over Sea on point in 5-furlong move
One filly who is most definitely targeting the Kentucky Oaks is Reddam Racing’s Land Over Sea. The daughter of Bellamy Road and O’Neill trainee was also on the Keeneland worktab Saturday, going 5 furlongs in 1:02.20 under exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
Land Over Sea finished second to Songbird in both the Grade II Las Virgenes and Grade II Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita Park this year before shipping to New Orleans to win the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks by 4 1/2 lengths on March 26.
The chestnut filly has been particularly energetic since arriving at Keeneland and gave Garcia quite the arm exercise through splits of 12.20, :24.20, :36.40 with a gallop out in 1:17.60.
“She did everything we wanted her to do and did it well in hand,” said Steve Rothblum, racing manager for O’Neill. “You couldn’t ask for her to be doing any better. We are just happy to be going in (to the Oaks) and be going in the right way. It’s going to be tough, no doubt, but we’re certainly happy with how she’s going.”
Land Over Sea, like her champion stablemate Nyquist, is set to have her final work at Keeneland next Saturday and will likely ship to Churchill Downs the following day.
O’Neill added that Gomo, winner of the Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland last October, is currently at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute being treated for a virus.
“We were trying to make the Oaks with her, or the Edgewood (at Churchill Downs on May 6), but that’s not going to happen,” O’Neill said. “She’ll be okay, but she’s under the weather at this point. I thought she was heading the right way, but we’ll get her right first and then look for a race when she’s healthy and ready.”
Brody’s Cause works at Churchill Downs
Brody’s Cause, winner of the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 9, turned in his first workout since that victory, going five furlongs in 1:01.80 over a fast Churchill Downs track Saturday morning with exercise rider Tammy Fox in the irons.
The son of Giant’s Causeway clocked fractions of :12.40, :24.60, :36.60 and :48.60 before galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:15.60 as he readies for his start in the Kentucky Derby.
“It’s just what we wanted,” trainer Dale Romans said. “I know it sounds cliché, but you can’t hide these Derby horses, everybody’s watching them. We wanted to go with a nice easy work. It’s the first one back off of the race and he went around there perfect.”
Other notable Derby contenders who worked at Churchill Downs Saturday were Louisiana Derby runner up Tom’s Ready, who went five furlongs in 1:01 in company with stable mate Forever d’Oro; and Fellowship, who breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 in company with Awesome Banner. Fellowship sits on the cusp of the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard at No. 21 with 32 points.
Kentucky Derby points standings
1. Gun Runner 151
2. Nyquist 130
3. Exaggerator 126
4. Outwork 120
5. Brody's Cause 114
6. Creator 110
7. Lani 100
8. Mor Spirit 84
9. Mohaymen 80
10. Danzing Candy 60
11. Destin 51
12. Suddenbreakingnews 50
13. Oscar Nominated 50
14. Shagaf 50
15. Whitmore 44
16. Tom's Ready 44
17. My Man Sam 40
18. Majesto 40
19. Trojan Nation 40
20. Mo Tom 32
21. Fellowship 32
22. Adventist 32
23. Laoban 32
24. Dazzling Gem 30
25. Cherry Wine 25
26. Discreetness 10