Since Nyquist overcame an outside post position to win last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland, trainer Doug O’Neill has had multiple meetings about what comes next.
“We’re able to only maybe give him a couple starts between now and the Derby,” said O’Neill, “which we’ll hopefully have a nice, strong, fresh horse going into it. If we get lucky there, we’ll have the energy we need to go in the next couple.”
With 30 qualifying points already toward the Road to the Kentucky Derby by virtue of wins in the FrontRunner at Santa Anita Park and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Nyquist will firmly earn a place in the Derby starting gate with a victory or two on next year’s trail. It may not even take another win as last year it only took 20 points and a healthy horse to qualify for the Kentucky Derby as so many horses with points were either injured or did not run in the Derby.
I’ll Have Another, the 2012 Derby winner trained by Doug O’Neill, also had just two preps for the Run for the Roses, winning the G2 Robert B. Lewis and the G1 Santa Anita Derby before winning the Derby and Preakness.
Jockey Mario Gutierrez has been on a horse racing hot streak and could do nothing wrong Oct. 16 at Santa Anita Park.
The 29-year-old jockey won on all five of his mounts Friday afternoon and took five of the first six races at the Arcadia, California track. All of his victories came for different trainers.
“It feels great,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve had to rebuild my career from the ground up since I won the Kentucky Derby (with I’ll Have Another) and it has been a lot of hard work. It has been one step at a time, and my biggest step was marrying a very special woman in January. (Rebecca is) my biggest support system. I think that’s what did it. It makes me push hard.
“I’ve won five races before at Hastings (Racecourse) but never five out the first six races in a day. This is really, really great.”