BALTIMORE — Kentucky Oaks runner-up Land Over Sea and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will be solid favorites in their respective legs of the Black-Eyed Susan/Preakness daily double this weekend at Pimlico. On Sunday morning, trainer Doug O’Neill let them both open up a bit in their training as they prepare to come back on two weeks’ rest for the first time in their careers.
Nyquist came on the track shortly after 8:30 while accompanied by a pony. They backtracked to about the 7-1/2-furlong pole, where Nyquist stood for several minutes before breaking into a slow and easy gallop under exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
Nyquist picked up the tempo at the half-mile pole and looked smooth and strong striding out down the stretch without need of urging from Garcia. Nyquist took a long gallop-out before being picked up by assistant trainer Jack Sisterson and his pony at about the half-mile pole.
O’Neill said he timed Nyquist in 1:55 for a mile.
“I’m very happy,” O’Neill said. “We wanted to two-minute-lick him and he outdid that. Visually it was spectacular. He was reaching a long ways.”
Maryland Jockey Club clocker Tim Geraghty has been clocking horses in the state for more than 25 years. He caught Nyquist from the half-mile pole to the wire in 51.60 seconds, and galloping out to the seven-furlong pole in 1:04.60.
“For him to do that just galloping was very impressive,” said Geraghty.
Geraghty said an average half-mile work at Pimlico on Sunday would be between 49 and 50 seconds.
O’Neill said Nyquist will jog Monday and then have moves similar to what he did Sunday on Tuesday and Thursday of Preakness week.
Although Nyquist has never run on two weeks’ rest before, he did win the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita last September, 19 days after taking the Del Mar Futurity.
Land Over Sea returned on three weeks’ rest to win the Fair Grounds Oaks prior to the Kentucky Oaks. Last fall, she finished second to Songbird in the Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita on three weeks’ rest. She won a Del Mar maiden race on 17 days’ rest in July 2015.
On Sunday, Land Over Sea two-minute licked a mile beginning at the six-furlong pole on the clubhouse turn. Down the lane, Land Over Sea was reaching for ground. O’Neill timed her in 1:59, with “her going a little quicker late than early.
“She really jumps a long ways,” O’Neill said of her stride.
O’Neill okay with Parx shippers
If the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture lifts the equine herpesvirus quarantine at Parx Racing early this week, Abiding Star will join the Preakness field and several other Parx-based horses are expected to run in other Friday and Saturday stakes.
The Pimlico racing office was accepting entries from horses at Parx on Sunday for Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan card, as long as they do not exclude any other runners from their respective races. If the quarantine is not lifted, the Parx horses will be scratched.
The Maryland Jockey Club was constructing a temporary two-stall isolation barn on the Pimlico backstretch for Abiding Star and Always Sunshine, both of whom are trained by Ned Allard.
If the quarantine is lifted, Abiding Star and Always Sunshine, who could be the favorite in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint on Preakness Day, will ship to Pimlico Thursday morning. All Preakness runners must be on the grounds by noon that day.
When they arrive, Abiding Star and Always Sunshine will be segregated from the general horse population. They will be allowed to exercise Friday and Saturday at 5 a.m. before normal training hours begin.
All of the other Parx shippers must ship in and out on the day of their races.
Although no horses have tested positive for the herpesvirus at Parx in recent weeks, the Maryland Jockey Club wanted to err on the side of caution regarding the safety protocols.
“We thought it best to be overly cautious regarding this situation,” said Sal Sinatra, president of the Maryland Jockey Club.
Doug O’Neill said Sunday morning that he was okay with the arrangements.
“It’s a little scary because herpes is an airborne illness,” he said., “but we are comfortable with how the shippers will be kept separate from the other horses.”
Exaggerator expected Sunday afternoon
Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator was reported to have left Churchill Downs by van for Pimlico at 5 a.m. Sunday. After a 600-mile trip, Exaggerator is expected to arrive late Sunday afternoon after an 11-hour van ride.
Exaggerator, trained by Keith Desormeaux, has faced Nyquist four times but has yet to beat him. Exaggerator has won three stakes – the Santa Anita Derby, Delta Jackpot, and Saratoga Special. He has earned more than $2 million.
Cox still undecided about Dazzling Gem
At Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Dazzling Gem breezed a half-mile early Sunday in 49.60 seconds over a fast track, but trainer Brad Cox said afterward a decision has yet to be reached on whether the Misremembered colt will run Saturday in the Preakness or Sir Barton at Pimlico.
Churchill clocker John Nichols caught Dazzling Gem in splits of 12.60 and 24.60 seconds, then out in 1:02.80 and 1:16.40.
Dazzling Gem, owned by Steve Landers of Little Rock, Ark., is booked on the second of two equine charters that will fly from Louisville to Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We’re going,” said Cox. “We just don’t know which race we’re running in yet.”
Dazzling Gem finished third in the March 26 Louisiana Derby and fourth in the April 16 Arkansas Derby. Landers and Cox had hoped to run the colt in the Kentucky Derby, but when it became apparent he had little chance of making the field, they didn’t bother to enter.
Meanwhile, a decision also is pending on the Preakness status of Gun Runner, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby.
David Fiske, racing manager for the colt’s owner, Winchell Thoroughbreds, posted on his Twitter account Sunday morning that Gun Runner will work an easy half-mile Monday morning at Churchill and that a decision regarding the Preakness would be made “late Tuesday or early Wednesday [aka last possible moment].”
If he travels, Gun Runner also would be on the Wednesday charter.
Gun Runner is trained by Steve Asmussen, whose only prior third-place finisher in the Derby was Curlin, who went on to capture the Preakness in 2007.
Lani gallop turns into a work
At Belmont Park, Lani went a half-mile in 50 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form clocker Mike Vesce, at the end of a strong gallop. The time will not show up as an official workout as he was not scheduled for a breeze.
According to Vesce, Lani went at a two-minute clip pace – meaning he went 15 seconds for each eighth of a mile – from the wire to the half-mile pole before picking it up at that point. Vesce clocked Lani in 13-second furlongs to the quarter pole and he went from the quarter pole to the wire in 24 seconds before proceeding to gallop out another eighth in 12.40 seconds.
“That’s quite fast,” said Keita Tanaka, agent for Lani’s owner, Koji Maeda. “He went as fast as the rider wanted to go. He showed a nice strike. He’s in good shape.”
Lani is expected to have an official workout on Wednesday at Belmont Park before shipping to Pimlico on Thursday.
Lani, a Kentucky-bred son of Tapit, won the UAE Derby at Meydan in March and finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby.
— Additional reporting by Marty McGee, David Grening and Mike Vesce