The 2016 Kentucky Derby field is headlined by a prohibitive favorite named Nyquist.
Per OddsShark.com, Nyquist's 10-3 odds dwarf his closest competition in No. 2 co-favorites Exaggerator and Moyhaymen, who are both listed at 8-1 to win the Run for the Roses next Saturday, May 7.
Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, will host the first leg of the Triple Crown, a campaign that has a lot to live up to following last year's phenomenal run by American Pharoah. The horse became the first since Affirmed in 1978 to win all three Triple Crown races.
If anyone has a chance to do it, the odds are in Nyquist's favor, but whomever emerges victorious in the Kentucky Derby will be one third of the way there. Below is a closer look at the top favorites as the marquee race approaches:
|2016 Kentucky Derby Odds|
|My Man Sam||+2500|
|Source: OddsShark.com. Current as of Wednesday, April 27|
Breakdown of Early Favorites
A perfect 7-0 record to date, most recently capped by a triumph at the Florida Derby, shows the type of horse Nyquist is.
Two of his victories have come in Grade 2 races, while four others were Grade 1, so it's not as though he ran to the winner's circle without strong competition. That demanding slate should prepare Nyquist well for the Triple Crown gauntlet, beginning with the Kentucky Derby.
Owner J. Paul Reddam, who named the horse after Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist, referred to how well his Churchill Downs favorite responds to a jockey's direction in discussing his massive success.
"Nyquist is all class," said Reddam, per CNBC.com's Jessica Golden. "If you asked me to describe Nyquist the hockey player, he's very classy, soft-spoken and plays the game at a high level."
At the Florida Derby, Nyquist ran for 1 ⅛ miles, or nine furlongs. He will run 10 at the Kentucky Derby—and he also went on to win the FrontRunner Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile over 8.5 furlongs.
Racingwithbruno recently pointed out how many of this year's viable Kentucky Derby entrants have managed to rise to the occasion at nine furlongs:
The difference with Nyquist is he has gotten the job done multiple times and still hasn't been defeated. He has demonstrated a blend of strength, stamina and consistency rare for even the most decorated Kentucky Derby favorites past.
American Pharoah won four straight races entering last year's Derby and benefited from the Grade 1 competition he faced in three of those four outings. Something similar could well be in store for Nyquist, who's bound to draw one of the best jockeys available due to his phenomenal prior results.
The Santa Anita Derby victor, sired by 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic and Preakness Stakes champion Curlin, exploded down the home stretch at Santa Anita Park in early April.
Entering that pivotal juncture of the race in third place, Exaggerator turned loose and willed his way through a sloppy track to dominate in Arcadia, California:
With that type of power and evident extra gear to explode to the finish, Exaggerator is going to be a force in the Kentucky Derby and is an attractive bet at 8-1.
Bradley Weisbord of Al Shaqab Racing referenced how Exaggerator's vast array of past wins bodes well for his ability to adjust to the big stage in Louisville:
If oddsmakers took into account how Exaggerator shined amid adverse weather circumstances in his biggest win to date, they might be persuaded to make him the favorite. However, it was his fourth win in nine career starts, meaning Exaggerator has been a bit hit-or-miss.
But there's reason to believe the showcase at Santa Anita was the colt's coming-out party.
Although he finished second in the San Vicente Stakes and third in the San Felipe Stakes, Nyquist won the former race, while Kentucky Derby probables Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit finished ahead of Exaggerator in the latter.
Mor Spirit, who's trained by Hall of Fame legend Bob Baffert, was also a runner-up to Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby.
No matter how well the other horses run or what Mother Nature decides to throw Louisville's way next Saturday, Exaggerator seems as well-equipped as anyone to handle it and pose a serious challenge to Nyquist.
Horse racing statistician Seth Abrams noted how history is stacked against Mohaymen ahead of The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports:
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin dismissed the underwhelming performance at Gulfstream Park on Tuesday, saying, per Jim Gluckson, "Draw a line through the Florida Derby. He's had only two bad minutes in his entire life."
Innate bias aside based on the fact Mohaymen is McLaughlin's pupil, there's reason to believe in the horse beyond what he's done purely on the track in the past.
The pedigree on Mohaymen has to be the most impressive among the top contenders, certainly more so than Nyquist and Exaggerator.
Included in his lineage are Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, and 2004 Wood Memorial Stakes winner Tapit (h/t PedigreeQuery.com), who was North America's leading sire in each of the past two years, per BloodHorse.com.
Worth noting, too, at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth this February, Mohaymen came out on top against two previously undefeated horses in Awesome Banner and 25-1 Kentucky Derby contender Zulu with a late move.
The best may still be yet to come for Mohaymen based on his family tree and resultant upside. It's possible Exaggerator peaked in the Santa Anita Derby, while Nyquist and his connections have a ton of hype to live up to.
These storylines make for a compelling trio of current Kentucky Derby favorites all capable of claiming glory to kick off the 2016 Triple Crown season.
Stats and race history courtesy of HorseRacingNation.com.