The first Saturday in May has always been the biggest day of the year in horse racing.
However, when the winner of the Kentucky Derby can also get the job done in the Preakness two weeks later, the biggest day of the year for the sport comes three weeks after the Baltimore race to the day of the Belmont Stakes.
That's when the sport has a chance to crown a Triple Crown winner. Horse racing had no such winners from 1979 through 2014, but American Pharoah ended that streak in 2015.
Can favored Nyquist—or any other horse, for that matter—make it two Triple Crown winners in a row?
It may seem like an obvious answer, considering how much time went by between the two most recent winners, but Nyquist comes into the race with a pristine racing record. The son of Seeking Gabrielle by Uncle Mo has won all seven of his previous races, and he has won against top competition.
Nyquist, who will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez and is trained by Doug F. O'Neill, is a 3-1 favorite in the race, according to Odds Shark, and is the horse to beat.
Nyquist will break out of the No. 13 hole, and that's something that should give him a good chance to run his best race. He should be able to avoid at least some of the traffic that is often a problem in the 20-horse field.
O'Neill was hoping his horse would avoid one of the posts on the extreme inside. "Breaking from 13 is fine," O'Neill said after the draw, per Jeremy Balan of Bloodhorse.com. "He was No. 13 when he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. The post didn't matter to us a ton, but we're happy with the outside, for sure."
|Kentucky Derby Draw and Odds|
|1||Trojan Nation||Patrick Gallagher||Aaron T. Gryder||66-1|
|2||Suddenbreakingnews||Donnie Von Hemel||Luis S. Quinonez||20-1|
|3||Creator||Steven Asmussen||Ricardo Santana Jr.||12-1|
|4||Mo Tom||Thomas Amoss||Corey J. Lanerie||22-1|
|5||Gun Runner||Steven Asmussen||Florent Geroux||9-1|
|6||My Man Sam||Chad Brown||Irad Ortiz Jr.||20-1|
|7||Oscar Nominated||Michael J. Maker||Julien R. Leparoux||66-1|
|8||Lani||Mikio Matsunaga||Yutaka Take||28-1|
|9||Destin||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||14-1|
|10||Whitmore||Ron Moquett||Victor Espinoza||18-1|
|11||Exaggerator||J. Keith Desormeaux||Kent J. Desormeaux||15-2|
|12||Tom's Ready||Dallas Stewart||Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.||40-1|
|13||Nyquist||Doug O'Neill||Mario Gutierrez||3-1|
|14||Mohaymen||Kiaran McLaughlin||Junior Alvarado||8-1|
|15||Outwork||Todd Pletcher||John R. Velazquez||16-1|
|16||Shagaf||Chad Brown||Joel Rosario||28-1|
|17||Mor Spirit||Bob Baffert||Gary L. Stevens||14-1|
|18||Majesto||Gustavo Delgado||Emisael Jaramillo||33-1|
|19||Brody's Cause||Dale Romans||Luis Saez||14-1|
|20||Danzing Candy||Clifford Sise Jr.||Mike E. Smith||20-1|
|Kentucky Derby.com; Odds Shark|
Exaggerator is the second choice in the field at 15-2, and he is trained by Keith Desormeaux and will be ridden by veteran jockey Kent Desormeaux.
The Desormeauxs hope to make horse racing history by being the first brother combination to lead their horse to the winner's circle in the Run for the Roses from the trainer and jockey positions.
Exaggerator, sired by Curlin out of Dawn Raid, finished first in the Santa Anita Derby April 9, and he comes into the Kentucky Derby with an excellent chance to challenge Nyquist.
Keith Desormeaux was happy his horse drew the No. 11 post, but he revealed his brother had some concerns about it, according to Balan.
"I'm fine with it," Keith Desormeaux said. "Kent seems a bit concerned, because he'll have to wait some after they load, but I don't see a problem. The horse is cool as a cucumber. It'll be fine."
The trainer added if his horse can win the race, it will be in the most dramatic of fashions, since he figures to be way behind in the race.
“He’s going to be far, far in the back,” Keith Desormeaux said in a Kentucky Derby press release. “He’ll be so far back, he’ll be behind the kick-back. You know these horses throw (dirt) kick-back when they run. I want that kick-back from the pack to go up and come down and then you’re going to see Exaggerator. Kent will be back there counting cars.”
Mohaymen, Gun Runner and Creator are right behind the two favorites, and all three are 8-1, 9-1 and 12-1, respectively at this point.
Creator is coming off a winning performance in the April 16 Arkansas Derby, and he will be ridden in the race by jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and is trained by Steve Asmussen.
He was sired by Tapit out of Morena, and while the Arkansas Derby has been his only victory, he has been on the board in all six of his career races. Creator will start out of the No. 3 hole.
Asmussen likes the way Creator has been running recently. "Creator is coming around at the right time,” Asmussen told Horse Racing Nation. “I really like his focus and how professional he’s been the last two-to-three weeks. We’re just trying to keep him in the rhythm that he was in between the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby."
Asmussen also trains Gun Runner, who will start from the No. 5 spot. The colt will be ridden by Florent Geroux, and he must be taken seriously since he has won four of his five previous starts.
Gun Runner was sired by Argentinian horse Candy Ride out of Quiet Giant, and Asmussen appears to have a lot of concerns about this runner, according to his quotes in TwinSpires:
“It looks like all the pace is to the outside. Hopefully, pre-race, everything goes smoothly. Hopefully, he stands up in the gates. Hopefully, he's away from there really good. But, we're very anxious right now with a very good horse going into the Derby. He's a tremendous horse. You want a good trip to show who he is.''
Mohaymen will start next to Nyquist in the No. 14 hole. He will be ridden by Junior Alvarado and is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.
Mohaymen was sired by Tapit out of Justwhistledixie, and while he finished fourth in the April 2 Florida Derby, he won his previous five races.
Of course, the one loss was to Nyquist, so there are a lot of questions about how he will handle his rival in this race. But his previous record indicates he will have an excellent chance to win if he runs his best race.