NYQUIST IS FAVORITE PICK TO WIN 2016 KENTUCKY DERBY; CAN HE WIN THE TRIPLE CROWN?
Nyquist may lack some buzz following last year's Triple Crown winner American Pharoah but the undefeated thoroughbred horse is still the clear favorite pick in Saturday's 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby.
The excitement continues to build at tradition-rich Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. -- one year after American Pharoah went on to became thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Some may be feeling a hangover to see whether Nyquist -- or one of the other 19 horses in the field -- could have what it takes to become a back-to-back Triple Crown winner.
"I know I have one," Bob Baffert, who trained American Pharoah and will send out Mor Spirit in Saturday's race, told USA TODAY Sports. "I think we'll see (a horse like that) again. You never know."
Unbeaten in seven starts, Nyquist is the son of Uncle Mo and developed on the West Coast before shipping to Gulfstream Park for last month's Florida Derby. He won the $1 million race in Florida and earned another million for connections as a graduate of a 2-year-old sale at the track.
"(Nyquist) really doesn't have the same media buzz," said trainer Dale Romans, who will saddle Blue Grass Stakes winner Brody's Cause. "Any undefeated 2-year-old champion coming into the Derby is the horse to beat. You've got to give it to him. There's some question marks with him probably, but you can't knock his record. He finds a way to win and winners, whether it's human or racehorses, have that intangible. They just win."
Nyquist, in post position No. 13, was installed as the solid 3-1 morning-line favorite in a field of 20 3-year-olds.
"Nyquist is nothing but the deserving favorite," said Steve Asmussen, who trains two top contenders in Creator and Gun Runner. "Neither of my horses has run a race to date that would beat Nyquist, but that's what everyone is here for."
Nyquist's trainer, Doug O'Neill, is not concerned about his horse's ability to get the 1 1/4-mile Derby distance.
"I think you have to look at his credentials; he's won four Grade 1s on four different tracks," said O'Neill, who trained I'll Have Another to a Kentucky Derby win in 2012. "If the Florida Derby was a mile and a half he would have won. Nobody has run a mile and a quarter yet, so we'll see, but I'm very optimistic."
BAFFERT LOOKING TO MAKE HISTORY
Trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled American Pharoah for the Triple Crown last year, will have the chance to make history again this year.
Mor Spirit, trained by the four-time Kentucky Derby winner, will break from the No. 17 post. No horse has won from there in the Derby's previous 141 races.
"The last time I had the 17 post it was with Point Given and Gary Stevens, and here we are again," said Baffert, who trained Point Given for 2001 Preakness and Belmont Stakes wins after a fifth-place Derby finish. "I remember last year I had the 18 with American Pharoah. There was a scratch and we were at 17, and I said let's look for another scratch and we ended up with the 16."
EXAGGERATOR: ALL IN THE FAMILY
Exaggerator, which drew the No. 11 post, is trained by Keith Desormeaux, whose Hall of Fame brother, Kent, will be aboard.
Horses are loaded into the gate two at a time, starting with posts one and 11, which spend the most time waiting for the start.
"Kent thinks it's a little disadvantage because we load first in a 20-horse field," Keith Desormeaux said. "It might be less than perfect but it doesn't bother me much because my horse has always been real calm in the gate. What's there to worry about?"
NOTES: The 2016 Kentucky Derby will be held on Saturday at Churchill Downs at 6:34 p.m. ET. ... Last year's Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is now out to stud in Versailles, Ky. ... The Derby track record is 1:59 2/5 by Secretariat in 1973 ... 170,513 people attended the race in 2015.