Kentucky Derby Favorite has Big Horseshoes to fill

November 1st, 2019 Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby betting favorite Nyquist has a tough act to follow in Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and that may or may not be affecting his odds. Las Vegas projections have him opening at no better than 3-1 odds, in spite of the generally run-of-the-mill caliber of his competitors.

If in fact Nyquist goes off at 3-1, it would be higher than the last two Derby favorites and seven of the last 16 in an unquestionably wide-open race. For an unbeaten 2-year-old champion, that’s eyebrow-raising, to say the least. Outwork and Destin trainer Todd Pletcher said that maybe he doesn’t get respect because all he does is win. Hey, hate the game, don’t hate the player.

It’s easy to see how Nyquist could be compared negatively to American Pharoah, though. After 37 years without a Triple Crown winner, Pharoah was like the second coming of Equus. In case you’re not familiar with horse mythology, Prince begat Prance, who begat Prankus, who begat Flankus, who begat Spankus, who begat Spunkus the Great who lived threescore years, who begat Leckwus, who begat Neckwus, who begat Fleckwus, the King of Spit. And Fleckwus spoke out of his chinkle-chankle, and said, “Behold, I give you Equus, my only begotten son.” American Pharoah basically parted the Red Sea and found the Promised Land after wandering in the dessert for almost 40 years. And there was much rejoicing.

Regardless of Nyquist’s Kentucky Derby betting odds to win (+250 at SBG Global), there is little faith among the people that he will win the Triple Crown as well. Given the inordinately long period that elapse between Pharoah and his predecessor Affirmed, the common belief now is that the Chosen Horse only comes once in many generations – at least until they retire to stud, after which they come many, many times, if reports of Pharoah’s disposition as a stallion are to be believed. Another comparison that does a disservice to Nyquist is based on both horses’ Beyer Speed Figures – a formula to quantify how well horses run on various tracks and in differing conditions.

American Pharoah had two triple-digit speed figures at age 2, then two more in his Derby prep races in Arkansas. He then produced speed figures of 105 (Derby), 102 (Preakness) and 105 (Belmont). His mic drop in the Breeders Cup Classic last October earned a 120. In contrast, 2-year-old Nyquist won the Juvenile with a humble speed figure of 89. Unfortunately for Nyquist, to be the Horse you gotta beat the Horse, but Pharoah is very, extremely, happily retired. Thus, all that’s left for Nyquist is to do his damnedest to make Kentucky Derby betting fans forget about Pharoah.

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