Odds-on favorite Nyquist outlasts field to win the 142nd Kentucky Derby

Jockey Mario Gutierrez goes to fist bump Nyquist’s groom after winning the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 7, 2016 in Louisville, Ky.

Anthony Crawford

A week ago Friday, the Kentucky Derby favorite and eventual winner Nyquist was wrapping up his last workout at Keeneland in front of a midday crowd. The special circumstances led to the race horse showing enough personality to earn the title of “Playboy” from trainer Doug O’Neill.

That playful mentality led to Nyquist toying with the training horse that worked out with him showing off and pulling away convincingly, but it was also present Saturday for the Kentucky Derby as he was able to pull away and become the eighth undefeated horse to win.

Pressure surrounded the team from the start as O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez came in with the past experience of winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

The two were just part of a crew that would be better described as a family.

“I’ve realized that a good horse you can train him a hundred different ways,” O’Neill said. “As long as you surround him with people that serve them right and take good care of them, it’s hard to screw them up.”

The trust put on display by owner Paul Reddam and O’Neill was hard earned after a rough patch but it surely flowed down to the most important relationship between Gutierrez and Nyquist.

Despite seeming bored with competition in workouts and receiving an unfavorable poll position, O’Neill still liked their path to a Kentucky Derby win and was as relaxed as Nyquist and on Saturday they both showed why.

Nyquist looked the part of the favorite right out the gates, never fading outside third behind the leader. Nyquist showcased the same speed he had in the wire-to-wire finish at the Florida Derby, trailing only speedster Danzing Candy for most of the race.

Many predictions came true as Danzing Candy and Nyquist both overcame their outside positions two lead the pack. They were joined by Gun Runner from the inside to make up the three leaders for the majority of the race.

Even as Danzing Candy served as the pacesetter for the first three quarters of the race, he served as little more than a target that Nyquist would break through in the final stretch to take and hold the lead.

Nyquist’s professionalism was giving yet another chance to shine in the final stretch as he was challenged by Gun Runner and Exaggerator. He held on showing why Gutierrez said afterwards that he was not the type to allow others to pass.

“So (Nyquist) was able to win by five lengths,” Gutierrez said. “He’s been able to win by a nose. So that’s how I get so much confidence from him. Because, if anybody comes late, I know he’ll have something to respond to that.”

Nyquist finished with a time of 2:01.31, and was followed by Exaggerator and then Gun Runner.

Nyquist also continued the narrative of the Kentucky Derby from the past three years, as he made it four straight favorites to win.  

In the end, the fastest two minutes in sports was overcome by Nyquist despite the speed from the outside and the late challenges with his natural professionalism and trust from his family of a crew.