The expected rematch of Nyquist and Exaggerator, winners of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, will not happen at the Belmont Stakes after all.
Nyquist trainer Doug O’Neill said Tuesday morning that the 3-year-old colt’s blood work showed an elevated white cell count and his temperature, after being normal earlier in the morning, was back up.
“He’ll be fine, just not fine enough to run in the Belmont,” O’Neill said.
“The blood work showed other early signs of infection. so we’re going to put him on strong antibiotics that will get him feeling better quicker. We were hoping it was just a virus that would run its course, but it’s not.”
The horse will be shipped back to Santa Anita either later this week or early next week once he gets the OK from the veterinarian.
Nyquist was considered a Triple Crown possibility after a strong win in the Kentucky Derby. But an off track and an overly aggressive riding strategy may have kept the horse from having his normally strong stretch performance.
Of course, it may not have mattered, given the strength of Exaggerator’s stretch run in Saturday’s Preakness.
The Preakness was the first time in five tries that Exaggerator had beaten Nyquist, but a rivalry was definitely starting to develop.
“I thought the rivalry was good for the game,” said Keith Desormeaux, Exaggerator’s trainer. “The race [the Belmont] has now lost some luster.”
O’Neill doesn’t think the bad weather played a part in Nyquist’s illness.
“I think it’s the result of him being a young 3-year-old horse, flying around the country, competing at the highest level; all that combined can make your horse sick.”
It will likely be a month before plans for his next race are made.
“Maybe Del Mar,” O’Neill said. “Time-wise, we’ll probably have him right at the start of Del Mar, or maybe we’ll look for something in Saratoga.”
Del Mar may not be the best fit for Nyquist.
“We would not be able to write a race for him,” said Tom Robbins, vice president of racing at Del Mar. Writing a race means creating a special race with a large enough purse to attract a horse the quality of Nyquist.
Robbins did offer up the San Diego on July 23 as a spot for Nyquist. However, that is a handicap race for 3-year and older horses and may also be the first race back for California Chrome after he won the Dubai World Cup. It’s unlikely O’Neill would run against Chrome until later in the year, possibly the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
9:41 a.m.: This post has been updated with comments from Nyquist’s trainer, Doug O’Neill.
This post was originally published at 9:26 a.m.