Kentucky Derby champion Nyquist jogged twice around a muddy track at Pimlico Race Course on Thursday morning, and recently arrived trainer Doug O'Neill said his horse was in "fantastic" form.
"He's just a horse who gives us so many positive vibes," said O'Neill, who flew in overnight after spending most of the week at his home base in California.
The conversation quickly turned to 2012, when O'Neill brought Derby champion I'll Have Another to the Preakness and had a blast going out on the town with his team.
"The memories are fantastic," he said. "Baltimore is a great city, and we got to experience so many cool things. It's amazing with a great racehorse, the people you get to meet because of them. … All the boys are back again, and we tend to go out nightly as a family. We're going to enjoy the town as much as we can."
O'Neill also shipped I'll have Another to Pimlico just two days after the Derby, and he said he couldn't be happier with coming early, a sharp contrast to what other trainers have done in recent years.
"We love being here early to settle in and have the track to ourselves pretty much," he said. "Even though the track had a little moisture in it [today], it was in great condition."
After two days of jogging, Nyquist will gallop Friday morning. O'Neill reiterated that a lighter workload has fit his horse and said he's unlikely to do more than tweak the training schedule.
"You don't want to do too much," he said. "He did a lot to do what he did, winning the Derby, so it's knowing your horse and knowing what's going to have his energy at a high level. … I think with Nyquist, the most important thing is just getting him settled in. He has shown he'll run on any track."
He drew an interesting comparison between his current champion and I'll Have Another, who won the Preakness before scratching a day prior to the Belmont Stakes because of a tendon injury.
"To me, if [Nyquist] was human, he's just a well-dressed, go-to-bed-early, in-the-gym-all-day kind of horse," O'Neill said. "He sleeps a lot and he rests in the stall. He has great energy on the track. I'll Have Another was more of a bulldog, a tough horse and a great horse. But this guy's a little bit more laid back."
The Preakness field is still shaping up around the undefeated colt, but O'Neill said he's less focused on the competition than on keeping Nyquist happy.
"Looks like the field is going to be tough. It's going to be a full field, and there are going to be a lot of new shooters," he said. "So that's always a concern. But our main focus is on Nyquist's health, and he looks great. He has good energy, and coming off a big win in the Derby, it's amazing how good he looks."