When Nyquist ended his 2015 campaign with a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory, he was in a class all his own. The oddsmakers pegged him as the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby back in late November with 9/1 odds, and he was tagged overall as the horse to beat. In fact, he appeared to be so far ahead of the class that everyone else was just running for second place. A lot has changed since then.
Trainer Doug O’Neill and Reddam Racing outlined an abbreviated work schedule for Nqyuist after an undefeated run in 2015. There was no reason to push him too hard too early. The talent was there. The speed was unmatched. He had proven how competitive he was time and again. All they had to do was get him to the Kentucky Derby healthy.
There are an unlimited combination of derby trail races that any hopeful can choose to run in, but Nyquist’s handlers took a rather unique route. In choosing the unheralded San Vicente Stakes in February, which is just 7 furlongs, they created this unusual concern amongst bettors and fans that Nyquist wasn’t ready for the longer distances. Seriously. People actually started talking about this. It’s like everyone had forgotten what he had accomplished the year before when he had smashed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Frontrunner Stakes, two challenges that are run at 1 1/16th mile.
In the meantime, other derby contenders started to rise up and nobody began to generate more buzz than Mohaymen. Making his stakes debut after the Breeders’ Cup, Mohaymen dazzled at the Nashua and Remsen Stakes before kicking up a storm in the Holy Bull Stakes and torching the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Those are four premier races, and far more accredited than the lesser known San Vicente. While Nyquist rested in the background, Mohaymen seized center stage.
There are a handful of credible suitors to the Triple Crown in 2016, but nobody seemed to gain more traction than Mohaymen. The reasons were obvious. All of his wins were at a mile or more, and he was generally in the public eye more frequently than the horse who has become his chief rival. In the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager, Mohaymen opened at 11/1 in November as the second favorite before vaulting in to the lead. He closed the third pool at 7/2 just last month.
Unbeknownst to Mohaymen’s handlers and Nyquist’s connections, the two were fated for a clash at the 2016 Florida Derby with neither camp veering off their desired path towards the Triple Crown. And as you probably know, Nyquist dominated yet again despite being the second favorite at 6/5 compared to Mohaymen’s 4/5 odds in the Gulfstream event. If this was a preview of the Kentucky Derby, then we all know where our money should be going.
In the wake of these results, Nyquist has returned to the top of the Triple Crown field, reigning with 3/1 odds to with the Kentucky Derby already. Mohaymen has dropped from 7/2 all the way to 8/1. A lot of people are realizing that Mohaymen has experienced far too much volume in an effort to make-up for his lack of a juvenile season. That workload is catching up to him.
So is the competition.
Or maybe, Nyquist was never behind to begin with.