Most of the 3-year-olds in the expected 20-horse field will be running 1 1/4 miles for the first time in the $2 million spectacle in Louisville, Ky.
Unbeaten in seven career starts, Nyquist dominated by 3 1/4 lengths in his first try at 1 1?8 miles, the Florida Derby, but some question whether another 220 yards will make a difference.
"It does bother me when I read an article and they're knocking Nyquist," O'Neill said. "It's like they're knocking your family member. But I have no big thoughts about what people are writing about him. Nyquist has been fortunate enough to hit the wire first in all of his starts, and we're optimistic he can keep it going.''
Churchill Downs brings out its auxiliary starting gate to accommodate the additional six horses beyond the 14-slot gate used on a typical race day.
"It's a big factor for all of us," O'Neill said after Nyquist galloped for the first time on the track Tuesday. "I think everyone would like to be outside of speed horses. It would be nice to be drawn outside of some of these horses that might show gate speed."
NYQUIST NAMED AFTER NHL PLAYER
The Stanley Cup will be in Nyquist's barn Saturday morning amid hopes of inspiring the undefeated 3-year-old colt.
"That's as close as either Nyquist is going to get to it (the Stanley Cup) this year," Reddam told the Los Angeles Times.
Reddam invited Nyquist the person to the Derby but he will be in his native Sweden preparing for the world championships.
"How cool is that?" said Doug O'Neill, Nyquist's trainer. "The human Nyquist won't get to skate around with the Cup this year, but the equine Nyquist gets two white-gloved guards bringing him the Cup to drink from. Life is good."
OTHER CONTENDERS FOR THE ROSES
American Pharoah's Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, will be back at Churchill Downs with another contender in Mor Spirit.
Creator, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, won the Arkansas Derby on April 16.