BOZICH | Racing and Nyquist lose with predictable Belmont scratc - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Racing and Nyquist lose with predictable Belmont scratch

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Will the Kentucky Derby victory be the final victory in Nyquist's career? Will the Kentucky Derby victory be the final victory in Nyquist's career?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Calipari vs. Pitino; Brady vs. Manning; Curry vs. James; Saban vs. Meyer.

Sports draws extra octane from rivalries, stirring coverage and inspiring debate.

Horse racing could use a double serving of that -- coverage and debate. Nyquist and Exaggerator were primed to provide material.

It wasn’t Affirmed vs. Alydar or even Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer. But it was something. It’s wasn’t a chase for a Triple Crown but at least it was the continuation of the argument about which colt is the best 3-year-old.

Now it’s nothing.

Now, with official confirmation that Nyquist, the Kentucky Derby winner, will miss his rematch with Exaggerator, the Preakness winner, in the Belmont Stakes June 11, horse racing is back to scrambling for eyeballs and fringe sports fans.

“It’s disappointing for the game and for me because I was looking forward to racing against both of them,” said trainer Dale Romans, who will send Cherry Wine and Brody’s Cause to the Belmont.

“If both of those two horses would have been there, plus my two horses and a few more, even without a Triple Crown there would have been a lot of story lines.”

That is the biggest downer from the news that an elevated white blood cell count was the final confirmation that trainer Doug O’Neill needed to pull his once-beaten colt from the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Surprising?

Not one bit. My sidekick, Eric Crawford, predicted it Saturday night during his post-Preakness coverage from Pimlico in Baltimore. You could see this scenario coming without binoculars.

O’Neill passed on the Belmont four years ago after I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. The day before the 2012 Belmont, O’Neill scratched his horse from a Triple Crown bid because of a tendon injury.

I’ll Have Another never had another – race, that is.

Less than a month later, owner J. Paul Reddam announced that he had sold the colt to a breeding farm in Japan for $10 million.

Will the Preakness also be the farewell appearance by Nyquist?

Nobody is saying that – yet.

The plan is to administer stronger antibiotics to combat the colt’s elevated temperature and white blood cell counts. There has been talk that he will return to run in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August.

Maybe. I wouldn’t put $2 on it. O’Neill is a West Coast guy who has never started a horse in the Belmont or the Travers.

I won’t discount the Breeders’ Cup because it is scheduled for Santa Anita in suburban Los Angeles Nov. 4 and 5. But, actually, I’d put my $2 against seeing Nyquist on the track again.

Lose once and you can twist the story from the defeat to the temperature and white blood cell count. You have an explanation, an out, an excuse, whatever you want to call it.

Lose twice and people forget the eight straight races the colt won to begin his career.

If you’re playing the odds with Nyquist today you certainly don’t run in the Belmont. No reason to risk losing a second time to Exaggerator, not after you started your career by beating him four times.

Next question: Do you risk chipping away at his value by running him at Saratoga or in the Breeders’ Cup Classic?

It’s certainly reasonable to argue against it. Call it a career today and you’re 8-0-1 – and the one came on a muddy track on a day when Nyquist was on the brink of requiring antibiotics.

Reddam and O’Neill will have to make that call. They’ve already made their call for June 11.

Now horse racing will move into the Belmont Stakes without something it needs as much as the pursuit of a Triple Crown – a rivalry moment.

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