O'Neill Back in Baltimore....

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3:45 pm EDT

Nyquist Maintains Path to Preakness

Doug O’Neill, in from California, looked over Nyquist on Thursday morning at Pimlico and pronounced him well.

“He looks fantastic. The guys are all happy. He’s a horse that gives off such positive vibes,” O’Neill said. “He still continues to talk to us in his own way, and he’s doing really well.”

The number has dwindled a bit, but a dozen horses are still regarded as at least possible for the Preakness. Brody’s Cause, Sharp Azteca and Suddenbreakingnews have been withdrawn from Preakness consideration.That said, O’Neill concerns himself with just one horse.

“It looks like the field is going to be tough. It’s going to be a full field, and there are a lot of new shooters, so that’s always a concern. But our main focus is on Nyquist’s health,” he said. “He looks great and has good energy coming off a big win in the Derby. It’s amazing how good he looks.”

Nyquist was also reunited with regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia on Thursday while jogging two miles the wrong way around the track. The undefeated colt was accompanied by a pony ridden by assistant trainer Jack Sisterson.

Video of Nyquist on the track Thursday morning is here.

“This is great, absolutely great. We love it. We love being here early, getting the chance to settle in and have the track pretty much to ourselves,” O’Neill said. “Even though the track had a little bit of moisture in it, it was in great condition. Not having a lot of traffic, you can pick the lane you want to be in. Jonny was really happy with it. He jogged with good energy today, and the plan is to gallop tomorrow.”

O’Neill reviewed his race strategy to prepare for the Kentucky Derby after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall.
“At that point he had 30  points for the Derby, so he didn’t have to go chasing points. The seven-eighths at home and the Florida Derby set him up for the Derby and still left him with fresh legs,” O’Neill said. “Here we are, and we’re happy where we’re at.”

O’Neill said he was thrilled to be back iat Pimlico, where he saddled 2012 Kentucky Derby winner for a triumph in the Preakness after exploring the city of Baltimore.

“The memories are fantastic. Baltimore is a great city, and we got to experience so many cool things. It’s amazing with a great racehorse all the people you get to meet because of him,” O’Neill said. “It’s a fun, fun town. It’s a great race track. The Preakness has such a great tradition. Just being part of it is a dream come true.”

O’Neill said he didn’t have any concerns that Nyquist wouldn’t perform to his high standards over the Pimlico racing surface.

“Nyquist being undefeated speaks volumes. Here’s a horse that’s won five grade 1's on five different racetracks. He’s won in Florida, Kentucky and Southern California. He’s special that way. He’s a great traveler,” O’Neill said. “He’s handled breaking cleanly from the gate; he’s handled getting bumped out of the gate; he’s handled running wide on the turns, saving ground on the turns. He’s just a special, special horse that’s handled everything that’s been thrown at him.”

Lani A First

Lani, ninth in the Kentucky Derby, is on course to be the first Japanese-based horse to compete in the Preakness. He is the maternal grandson of 1989 Preakness winner Sunday Silence, who had a distinguished career as a sire in Japan.

A Kentucky-bred son of top sire Tapit, Lani  has been training this week at Belmont Park, where he is under the supervision of a veterinarian appointed by the U.S. Drug Administration.

After shipping to Pimlico next Thursday, he will remain in a quarantined barn away from other horses on the grounds.

The name Lani means “heaven” in the Hawaiian language. His dam is Heavenly Romance.

Uncle Lino Plans

Trainer Gary Sherlock plans to work California Chrome Stakes winner Uncle Lino five furlongs Friday under regular rider Fernando Perez before shipping to Pimlico Tuesday.

Edited MJC release with additional content by Dick Downey