Nyquist is not out of the Horse of the Year race

September 21, 2016 09:31am
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Photo: Zoe Metz/Eclipse Sportswire

Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby is going to be a big one. Both from a monetary standpoint, it will carry a $1.25 million purse if both the Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Preakness winner Exaggerator start, as expected, but also in the race for a championship. The Grade 2, nine-furlong affair could well be the one that decides the 3yo Male Champion. More than that, though, it could even propel the winner to a run at the 2016 Horse of the Year title. Well, provided the winner of the Pennsylvania Derby is Nyquist.


I know what you are thinking. Nyquist is currently all the way down at #10 on the weeklyNTRA poll -- this late in the season, how could I possibly expect him to leapfrog California Chrome, Tepin, and all the rest ahead of him?


It’s simple really. As the horse of the first half of the year, on the strength of impressive wins in the Grade 2 San Vicente (over Exaggerator), Grade 1 Florida Derby, and, of course, the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist just needs to remind voters how good he is with a return to the winner’s circle. That is where the rich Pennsylvania Derby comes in.


A victory in this race, which not only includes the Preakness winner, but also toughies like Cupid, Gun Runner, Awesome Slew, and more, would be a seasonal rebirth for the 2015 Juvenile Champion. It would represent a victory over a strong cast, as well as, his fourth grade 1 or grade 2 victory of the year.


Sounds good, but in and of itself, he would still be a far cry away from this potential Horse of the Year title that I am talking about. A far cry maybe, but one that could be gobbled up with one more win -- the Breeders’ Cup Classic.


Yes, what I am proposing might seem a little hard to buy into at the moment, but think about it. He has been working well at San Luis Rey Downs for trainer Doug O’Neill of late, with a series of progressively stronger miles. If the Paul Reddam owned son of Uncle Mo comes back sharp, and wins the Pennsylvania Derby, like he won all of his races before the rains came, wouldn’t he head to the Classic as a horse with a shot?


Victories in the Pennsylvania Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic would be a huge way for him to end the season, and would bookend very nicely with the way he began 2016 through the first Saturday in May. Let’s face it, the two most important races in American racing are the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. If the same horse won both, combined with a trio of other nice graded stakes wins, wouldn’t that be tough to overlook for Horse of the Year voters?


Then there is the sloppy track angle. Nyquist has never lost a race on a fast racetrack. Not this year, not ever. If it does come down to a wide open race between him, California Chrome, Tepin, and Songbird, you would have to think that voters may pardon the two mid-season losses by Nyquist just a little bit easier, considering they both came on off tracks.


There is an excellent chance all of this becomes a moot point either next Saturday, or even more likely on November 5, but as of today, Nyquist is clearly one of the few horses who holds out hope with a legitimate chance to be named Horse of the Year at the end of the year. Starting Saturday at Parx, it is still all on the table for the Kentucky Derby champion.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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