Nyquist Connections Await Florida Derby Test

Racing

Nyquist faces fellow undefeated Kentucky Derby hopeful Mohaymen in Saturday's Florida Derby. (Photo by Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photo)

By Tom Pedulla, America's Best Racing

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – When owner J. Paul Reddam was asked if Nyquist would still be confronting Mohaymen in the $1-million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby if a $1-million bonus was not also at stake on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, his answer was anything but direct.

“I would like to think we would still be there,” Reddam said during a phone interview. “But if we’re honest, it’s hard to say. I don’t know.”

The certainty is that participation in the Florida Derby represents a high-risk, high-reward proposition for Reddam, a former professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles. The risk begins with having the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2-year-old champion having to leave the physical and psychological comfort of his home base at Santa Anita Park to face the saltiest opponent out there on that foe’s home course.

Beyond that, the logistics mean Nyquist will not ship home to begin preparations for the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. Once he is given a little time to recover from the most arduous prep race the owner and trainer Doug O’Neill could find, he will head to Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., to train for the most important start of his career.

It is fair to say the weather in Lexington in April is not nearly as dependable as the Southern California sunshine, seemingly creating training conditions far less ideal than what O’Neill is accustomed to as he continues to develop a youngster whose ability to get the classic mile-and-a-quarter distance is being questioned.

Given that risk, Reddam, who purchased Nyquist for $400,000 as a 2-year-old, and O’Neill have been intent on chasing the reward almost as soon as the Uncle Mo colt scored an impressive victory in the Juvenile at Keeneland. With Nyquist qualifying for the $1-million bonus being offered to any graduate of Fasig-Tipton’s Florida sale who wins the Florida Derby, the windfall would be $1.6 million. No other prep race, no Triple Crown race, offers such a massive return.

Reddam appears to be profoundly influenced by his wild emotional ride with 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. Their much-anticipated Triple Crown bid never reached the starting gate. I’ll Have Another was scratched on the eve of the Belmont Stakes with a career-ending injury to his left front tendon.

I'LL HAVE ANOTHER'S KENTUCKY DERBY WIN

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Given that experience, Reddam is more than willing to play catch-us-if-you-can with Mohaymen now and leave the future to the future. “A horse can get sick, he can bruise his foot, there is no guarantee we’re going to make the Kentucky Derby,” he said.

Reddam noted that the bittersweet experience with I’ll Have Another, also trained by O’Neill, led both men to be drawn to the five-week lead time to the Kentucky Derby that the Florida Derby offers. “We might have learned a few things about trying to keep our horse as fresh as possible,” he said.

O’Neill acknowledged that the perception of Mohaymen changed from the time they identified the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita and the Florida Derby as their means to arriving at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

“We didn’t know much about Mohaymen at that time,” O’Neill said. “He had won a couple of races in New York (Nashua and Remsen, both Grade 2). We never thought he’d be doing what he’s doing and we’d be doing what we’re doing. So that added to the mix, but we still think we are doing what is in the right interests of Nyquist.”

Nyquist earned a game 1 ½-length victory against Exaggerator in the San Vicente on Feb. 15 at Santa Anita in his 3-year-old debut for his sixth victory in as many starts, with five of those coming in California. Mohaymen boasts an unblemished 5-for-5 mark, having swept a pair of Grade 2 preps at Gulfstream while barely breaking a sweat.

Nyquist and Mohaymen are likely to press each other as they have never been pressed before. Reddam figured that into his thinking, too.

“Having to run hard might actually be good for our horse,” he said. “So that doesn’t bother me.”

$1-million Xpressbet Florida Derby
April 2, Race 14, Gulfstream Park, 6:48 p.m. ET
1 1/8 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Owner(s)

Odds

1

Sawyers Mickey

Scott Spieth

Peter Walder

Loooch Racing Stables

TBD

2

Fellowship

Jose Lezcano

Stanley Gold

Jacks or Better Farm

TBD

3

Majesto

Javier Castellano

Gustavo Delgado

Grupo 7C Racing Stable

TBD

4

Nyquist

Mario Gutierrez

Doug O'Neill

Reddam Racing

TBD

5

Copingaway

Miguel A. Vasquez

Jaime Mejia

Thoroughbred Champions Training Center

TBD

6

Chovanes

Edgard Zayas

Jorge Navarro

Gelfenstein Farm

TBD

7

Takeittotheedge

Tyler Gaffalione

Dale Romans

Bakster Farm

TBD

8

Fashionable Freddy

Nik Juarez

Nick Zito

My Meadowview Farm

TBD

9

Mohaymen

Junior Alvarado

Kiaran McLaughlin

Shadwell Stable

TBD

10

Isofass

Julien Leparoux

Francis Abbott III

DB DOJO

TBD

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