Nyquist exceeds expectations in final work before Kentucky Derby

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Nyquist was fast enough to win going five furlongs in his debut nearly 11 months ago, so there's no need to work on his speed. As he edges closer to the Kentucky Derby on May 7, when he will run 1-1/4 miles for the first time, the emphasis has been on stamina.

He's had a series of long workouts, first in California and now in Kentucky, and it was more of the same -- even a little more so -- on Friday morning here at Keeneland, where Nyquist completed his serious training for the Derby with a one-mile workout timed by Daily Racing Form in 1:41.01.

His work was the last of 11 drills turned in by Derby prospects on Friday, with the other 10 occurring 72 miles west of here at Churchill Downs, the home of the Derby.

But Nyquist's work was the most anticipated because he goes into the Derby as the acknowledged favorite, with a perfect 7 for 7 record and wearing the crown as the champion of his division at age 2, when he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile here.

The work was similar to what Nyquist has been doing all spring on work days. But this time, instead of dawdling through the first three furlongs and then polishing off a faster five furlongs -- often receiving five-furlong times from official clockers -- he went out at a faster, though not fast, pace with workmate Ralis before leaving that stakes winner for good in upper stretch.

"Very happy, beyond what we imagined," said Doug O'Neill, who trains Nyquist for Paul and Zillah Reddam. "He exceeded our expectations. He did it nice and easy."

Nyquist and Ralis were granted permission by Keeneland to work at 12:15 p.m., a little less than an hour before the first race of the closing-day card. Nyquist was accompanied by a pony, and those two and Ralis entered the track at the mile pole and then jogged the wrong way to about the half-mile pole before turning around. After passing the finish line of the 1-1/16-mile track, the work commenced, with Nyquist starting off slightly behind Ralis. They were even for much of the backstretch and around the far turn, but then Nyquist began to draw away in upper stretch under jockey Mario Gutierrez.

"Poor Ralis," O'Neill said as Nyquist bounced clear.

Nyquist swapped leads late in the stretch, which O'Neill attributed to him leaving his workmate.

"He worked good. It's very exciting," said Gutierrez, who teamed with O'Neill and the Reddams four years ago to win the Derby with I'll Have Another.

O'Neill said he was happy with the way Nyquist had progressed since a minor hiccup -- shipping fever -- soon after arriving here following his win in the Florida Derby four weeks ago. Nyquist was scheduled to be sent by van from here to Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon. O'Neill said he would have a fairly mundane week in Louisville.

"Visit the gate, walk through the paddock, jog, and gallop," O'Neill said.

At Churchill Downs on Friday, the two Derby horses trained by Todd Pletcher, two trained by Chad Brown, and the once-beaten Mohaymen were among the flurry of workers, several of whom had their works moved up a day to avoid predicted wet weather over the weekend.

Outwork, the Wood Memorial winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.16 in company for Pletcher. Destin, Pletcher's Tampa Bay Derby winner, also worked five furlongs in company, going in 1:01.27.

Brown's Derby candidates both went a half-mile in company, though not with one another. My Man Sam, the Blue Grass Stakes runner-up, was timed in 49.45 seconds, while Shagaf was timed by Churchill Downs clockers in 47.80 seconds. DRF had his final three furlongs in 35.44 seconds.

Mohaymen, who suffered his first loss in the Florida Derby, worked a half-mile in 47.51 seconds for Kiaran McLaughlin.

Mo Tom, who encountered severe trouble in the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star, worked a half-mile in 49.09 seconds for Tom Amoss.

Suddenbreakingnews, second in the Arkansas Derby, worked five furlongs by himself in 59.46 seconds for Donnie Von Hemel.

Whitmore, third in the Arkansas Derby, worked five furlongs in 59.81 seconds for Ron Moquett.

Tom's Ready, second in the Louisiana Derby, worked five furlongs in company, with Churchill's clockers giving him a time of 59.40 seconds. He is trained by Dallas Stewart.

Florida Derby runner-up Majesto worked five furlongs by himself in 1:01.32 for trainer Gustavo Delgado.

Javier Castellano worked Destin, then got off him to work Majesto. He rides Destin in the Derby.

-- additional reporting by Mike Welsch