LOUISVILLE,KY. — The revelry after Nyquist's Kentucky Derby victory was joyous but subdued, the team behind him all too aware they had completed just one of three chapters in a grander story.
"He has two or three different styles," Mora said. "When you only have a closer or only have a speed horse, you always worry, because you don't know what's going to happen when they come out of the gate."
He compared Nyquist to Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner who helped him fall in love with the sport when he was a young hot walker in California.
The Preakness field will begin to take shape over the next week. Exaggerator's trainer, Keith Desormeaux, said he'd like another shot at Nyquist, who has beaten his horse four times now. Exaggerator was gaining ground on Nyquist as they neared the wire Saturday and finished 1 ¼ lengths back. But even as the horses galloped out, Nyquist would not allow his rival to pass. Perhaps he never will.
Steve Asmussen, the trainer of third-place Derby finisher Gun Runner and 13th-place finisher Creator, was non-committal when asked about his horses racing in the Preakness.
"They're not going to go anywhere in the immediate future," he said. "We'll give them a couple of days, probably go back to the track with them Wednesday. … We'll see how we think they're doing."
He said both horses seemed to recover well from the Derby and have good races ahead of them. The Hall of Fame trainer was particularly pleased with Gun Runner's Derby effort, which briefly had him thinking victory was within grasp.
"He was right next to the horse that won the race," Asmussen said. "But Nyquist is an undefeated, Eclipse Award-winning, Kentucky Derby champion."
Other possible entrants for the Preakness include Laoban and Cherry Wine, the two "also-eligible" Derby horses who would have gotten into the field if any of the top 20 had scratched.
Todd Pletcher-trained Stradivari and Bob Baffert-trained Collected, winner of the April 16 Lexington Stakes, are also in the mix. So is Awesome Speed, who won the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park on April 9.
Regardless of the exact make-up, Nyquist will face a weaker field than he did at Churchill Downs, so most of the questions will center on how he'll handle the heavy workload of the Triple Crown.
It's part of the reason O'Neill put Nyquist in only two Derby prep races and trained him relatively gently heading into the race. His eye was always on the bigger picture.