A massive crowd of 167,000 racegoers came to Churchill Downs for this year’s Kentucky Derby and they were treated to an awesome performance from the still unbeaten Nyquist. Taking up a position just behind the pacesetter, Danzing Candy, he eased into the lead hitting the straight and, in an instant, put daylight between him and Gun Runner. While Exaggerator made good late progress, the result was never in doubt. Beyer was suitably impressed, allocating a rating of 103, Nyquist’s highest to date.
Thoughts now turn to the Preakness at Pimlico in a little under two weeks time and it is difficult to escape the key question, who will take on Nyquist? Connections of Exaggerator have thrown their hat into the ring but who else will put their charge on the line? Indications are that most of the beaten horses will sidestep the Preakness for other, easier pickings.
The worry for Pimlico is that the field for their $1.5m race will either be very small or very lop-sided with a lot of dead wood. One has to be sympathetic to the connections of the field in the Derby. These are very valuable animals, who will have high value as stallions once their racing careers are over. Winners command the best stud fees not horses that are consistently placed behind a superstar. Fortunately, whoever turns up for the Preakness, the race should command a good crowd as Nyquist and his exploits are a sufficient draw in their own right.
Looking beyond the Preakness we have the Belmont. While it is difficult if not impossible to see beyond Nyquist for the Pimlico feature (assuming good health of course), Exaggerator’s connections will surely have some hopes of reversing the placings given the way the Derby panned out. Exagegerator was finishing well and, who knows what might have happened over an extra two furlongs over Belmont Park’s punishing straight.
Elsewhere on a spectacular undercard, Tepin produced a masterful performance in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. She stalked the pace with great comfort before taking it up 3 wide when coming into the straight. She accelerated away to win geared down by 3 ½ lengths. Excitingly she could well go to the Royal Ascot meeting in June. She is entered in the Queen Anne Stakes on 14th June. The race is a Group 1 (equivalent to a US Grade 1) run over a straight turf mile. There is nothing like Frankel in the European opposition so she must surely have a great chance. She is priced up between 6/1 and 8/1 by the British bookmakers and is second favorite behind last year’s winner, Solow.
In the Grade 1 Humana Distaff Stakes, we witnessed a stellar performance from Taris. She showed that her prep races over 2 turns had put her in excellent shape for this 7 furlong affair. She tracked Stonetastic with ease before jockey, Flavien Prat, let her loose in the straight and the contest was over in a flash and she stretched away to win by a supremely comfortable 5 ¾ lengths. This win entitles her to the status of top female sprinter in the country and, all being well, she will put this to the test in the Breeders’ Cup.