Could Nyquist Become A Triple Crown Winner? The Next Two Races Will Either Make Or Break His Chances
Nyquist and his jockey Mario Gutierrez snatched the Kentucky Derby crown Saturday evening in America's most anticipated horse race of the year. With a 7-0 record and 3-1 odds going into the race at Churchill Downs, Nyquist's victory wasn't a major shock, but now the race horse's future is up in the air. Since the Derby is the first of the nation's top three annual races, Nyquist could become a Triple Crown winner, though it's not super likely to happen.
In order to win the Triple Crown, a race horse has to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes all within a five-week span. Nyquist is now one-third of the way there, and could potentially sweep Preakness in Baltimore May 21 and Belmont in New York June 11. However, Triple Crowns are extremely rare these days — American Pharoah was the first horse in 37 years to earn the trophy when he outran every other horse at all three competitions last year. The odds of it happening again this year are very low, but it's certainly not impossible. It's safe to say Gutierrez and Nyquist's trainer, Doug O'Neill, are going to do everything in their power to snag that crown, and won't write it off as a far-fetched idea just yet.
Before American Pharoah, the last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 13 horses came close, taking the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes only to lose (or not even compete in) the Belmont Stakes. Triple Crown winners were much more common prior to Affirmed's victory, with 10 horses winning between 1919 and 1977.
Competing in, much less winning, these three consecutive races is really difficult considering they're all different lengths. The Kentucky Derby is 1.25 miles, Preakness is 1.19 miles, and Belmont is 1.5 miles long, forcing horses racing in all three to train for multiple levels of endurance and speed. With only a few weeks between each event, they don't have much time to train for the adjustments. They're also competing with horses who haven't been in the previous races and therefore aren't already worn out and have trained solely for that length leading up to the competition.
Racing so much in such a short period of time is also hard on the animals' bodies, and multiple Triple Crown contenders have had to bow out of Belmont because of injuries. In 2012, O'Neill's horse I'll Have Another got a tendon injury after winning the Derby and Preakness, leaving no option but to sit out Belmont.
All of this is to say it's still possible for Nyquist to defy odds and win the Triple Crown, but I wouldn't expect it a year after American Pharoah's reign. Maybe hold off on betting your savings on his triple victory.