LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 7 (UPI) -- Nyquist rolled to his eighth straight win in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, becoming the eighth undefeated winner of the Run for the Roses.
Jockey Mario Gutierrez, who won his second Derby in as many tries, got Nyquist out to a clean start from the No. 13 gate, shadowed pacesetter Danzing Candy and took over as the field headed into the long Churchill Downs stretch.
With questions lingering about Nyquist's ability to last the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby, Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator began closing the gap from far back in the 20-horse field. But he fell 1 1/4 lengths short, settling for second. Gun Runner, the Louisiana Derby winner, was third.
Gutierrez said he knew Exaggerator was bearing down on him in the late going. "I had 100 percent confidence in Nyquist," he said. "Nyquist only needs a horse to push him."
Nyquist, one of three in the race sired by Uncle Mo, finished in a good time of 2:01.31 and, presumably, will go on to the Preakness Stakes in two weeks at Pimlico, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
"Our strategy was to take it to 'em," said owner J. Paul Reddam, who also teamed with trainer Doug O'Neill and Gutierrez to win the Derby in 2012 with I'll Have Another. That colt went on to win the Preakness but was scratched from the third jewel, the Belmont Stakes, with a leg injury.
Reddam admitted in the winner's circle a part of his mind is on that unfinished business, even as he enjoyed the Run for the Roses. "Maybe later tonight we'll think about two weeks from now," he said.
"It would be nice," O'Neill said of the Triple Crown chance.
O'Neill said Nyquist's strength is his worth ethic. "He knows when to rest, when to bring his A game," the trainer said. "He's just such a special horse. You see it in his eye every day."
The bay colt, named for Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gustav Nyquist, won at first asking at Santa Anita last June. He then reeled off three straight wins in California stakes before posting a traffic-plagued, off-the-pace victory in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.
He returned to win his 3-year-old debut in the Grade II San Vicente at Santa Anita, then earned a $1 million bonus with a victory in the Florida Derby. He entered the Kentucky Derby with a bankroll of more than $3.3 million -- tops in Derby history.