Nearly one year since American Pharoah made history, Nyquist has embarked on a star-making turn of his own at Churchill Downs. The thoroughbred has won the 2016 Kentucky Derby.
The colt beat out 19 other competitors over the course of a hectic mile and a quarter, crossing the finish line about a body length ahead of Exaggerator.
Jockey Mario Gutierrez earned a patient win with Nyquist, giving the racehorse Danzing Candy plenty of leeway to lead the pack early. Gutierrez kept Nyquist close, though, never dropping much lower than third. Nyquist pulled ahead in the final stretch and didn't ease up until he definitively captured the Run for the Roses.
The win didn't exactly come as a surprise. By mid-afternoon, the bay colt was pulling down 2-1 odds, cleanly earning honors as the heavy favorite. Nyquist — owned, trained and ridden by the same team that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby — approached this year's race with the confidence of having succeeded at Churchill Downs before.
"There's a quiet confidence in the group that's not flashy," owner Paul Reddam told Rick Howlett of member station WFPL before the race. "But — to speak Californian for a moment — there's a very good vibe in the barn."
Famous for his ice hockey fandom, the Ontario native named Nyquist after a player on his favorite team, forward Gustav Norquist of the Detroit Red Wings. And it's not even the first — or the second, or the third — Red Wings player who has served as namesake for one of Reddam's horses.
But, whatever the pedigree of his on-ice predecessor, Nyquist (the horse, to be clear) has been dominant on the track in his own right. Before the Kentucky Derby, the horse had gone a perfect 7 for 7 in his early races.
Now, make that 8 for 8.
Of course, the conclusion to this year's Derby Day, now in the books, also ushers us to the starting gate of another beloved, decades-old tradition: talk of a potential Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby is just the first jewel in horse racing's highest prize; to win a Triple Crown, Nyquist must now go on to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, too.
American Pharoah managed the feat last year — for the first time since 1978. Can Nyquist do the same? Ladies and gentlemen, let the breathless debates begin.