In the hours leading up to Saturday's Kentucky Derby, there were plenty of celebrity sightings, hats, and mint juleps to go around, but there seemed to be one big question on everyone's mind: Would any of the 20 horses racing this year measure up to the historic performance by American Pharoah in 2015? American Pharoah set a standard that can't easily be repeated, but one horse could be on its way, as Nyquist won the 2016 Kentucky Derby, keeping his much talked-about undefeated career streak alive.
Last year, American Pharoah won the derby by one length under jockey Victor Espinoza and trainer Bob Baffert. Heading into Saturday's race, Nyquist, winner of the Florida Derby in April, was the clear favorite of betters everywhere. At the time of the race, his odds sat at 2 to 1, slightly better than those of American Pharoah the previous year. Nyquist entered Saturday's race with an undefeated record, winning all seven of his previous races. He won with an unofficial time of just over two minutes and one second.
Following Nyquist in the betting odds and the race results was Exaggerator. Although not the favorite, Exaggerator earned attention ahead of the race because of the unique history a win for that horse would make. Exaggerator is the horse of jockey-trainer siblings Kent and Keith Desormeaux, who had hoped to become the first pair of siblings to win the Derby as a jockey-trainer team.
Aside from the horse's shear talent and athleticism, which was clearly reflected in the betting odds, Nyquist had a stellar team that is familiar with Kentucky Derby wins. Nyquist is owned by J. Paul Reddam, a Canadian businessman who won the Derby in 2012 with I'll Have Another. Jockey Mario Gutierrez of Mexico also won in 2012 with I'll Have Another and again on Saturday with Nyquist. Trainer Doug O'Neill rounded out both teams, as well. Following Nyquist's win on Saturday, O'Neill compared the horse to another great athlete, saying, "There's no way you can be nervous [with Nyquist] because you just feel like you're going into the gym with Kobe Bryant."
But to truly live up to American Pharoah's historic performance last year, Nyquist will have to look beyond Saturday's race. American Pharoah was the first horse in 37 years to win horse racing's coveted Triple Crown title, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. Nyquist's team has come close to a Triple Crown once before. In 2012, I'll Have Another won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but he was unable to race in the Belmont Stakes due to tendonitis. This year's Preakness Stakes will take place on Saturday, May 21, while the Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 11.