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Schmuck: Preakness has 'familiar feeling to it' for confident Nyquist owner Paul Reddam

Nyquist owner Paul Reddam, left, talks with Cherry Wine trainer Dale Romans, at the post drawing for Saturday's Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, in Baltimore.
Nyquist owner Paul Reddam, left, talks with Cherry Wine trainer Dale Romans, at the post drawing for Saturday's Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, in Baltimore. (Garry Jones / AP)

Paul Reddam seemed almost too relaxed.

The owner of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist had arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday just an hour or so before they pulled the post positions for Saturday's Preakness, but he seemed no worse for a long ride, which gave him something in common with horse racing's newest Triple Crown candidate.

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Reddam said before the posts were announced that he favored the outside, but Nyquist got the third gate.

No problem.

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He said he normally prefers not to go into a big race as the favorite, then laughed at himself for even suggesting it was ever a possibility. Nyquist opened as a prohibitive 3-5 favorite.

"The inside is just the opposite of the outside," he said, "so it's OK."

Everything's apparently OK in the happy world of Reddam Racing LLC. The same crew was here a few years ago in this situation with I'll Have Another, who won the Derby and the Preakness before he missed his appointment with racing history because he had to be scratched from the Belmont Stakes with a tendon injury.

After Nyquist drew the No. 13 post in the Kentucky Derby, owner Paul Reddam looked at trainer Doug O'Neill and said he thought the number might be lucky. O'Neill put an equally upbeat spin on the No. 3 after the undefeated Derby champion drew that post for Saturday's Preakness.

If that might figure to ramp up the pressure on the Reddam team to breeze through Baltimore and get back to the Belmont, Reddam insisted Wednesday that he and his group aren't feeling any and, for that matter, didn't in the days leading up to the Derby.

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"Actually, I don't think we were very stressed about the Derby," he said. "Everyone was shockingly relaxed. I think that reflected confidence in the horse. This time, if there's any nervousness it will be more about, 'OK, we're going to have a soupy track, it sounds like. We haven't been on that.' But beyond that, it is what it is. So we're pretty good that way, nerve-wise."

There's a pretty good chance the track will be wet. Whether it rains so much that it's sloppy remains to be seen. And whether that would have an impact on Nyquist's chances of winning the second jewel of the Triple Crown is not really knowable, since he is a California-based horse that has run only three of his eight races anywhere else.

"From what I understand, it's going to pour on Saturday," Reddam said.

"I don't know if it's a disadvantage or an advantage. He's only been on a good track, but there isn't any reason to think he won't like it."

It would be hard to find any reason to be concerned about the way Nyquist will perform based on what he has done so far. He's 8-for-8 and he looks like the perfect candidate to follow in the fresh Triple Crown hoofprints of American Pharoah.

Reddam said he had an inkling he had a special horse as far back as Nyquist's maiden race and was almost sure shortly thereafter.

"When he won his maiden, he had the rail and was actually headed at the top of the lane and he came back on," Reddam said.

"We were high-fiving and it was a special performance, but it became clear he was a special horse to me when he won the Best Pal at Del Mar [in his second race] and he was eased up at the wire. Then I thought, 'Well, we might have a horse that can win Grade 1s,' and here we are."

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Still, Reddam didn't allow himself to think this far ahead. There are too many variables in the sport to project a horse into the Triple Crown conversation until said horse actually earns a place in it. Even now, Reddam is hesitant to talk about the possibility of a second straight Triple Crown.

"I didn't think past this next race and never have," he said. "It's always going to be one step at a time. We had a long-term plan, but you don't know if you have the horse for that or — soundness-wise — he's going to hold up, but he's really sound. ...

"No, we've got to get by Saturday. A horse race is a horse race for a reason. Sometimes there are shocking outcomes and sometimes they go the way that they look on paper, but they've got to run them for a reason. So, we're not looking past Saturday. Saturday is the day."

Superstitious? Not really.

"We're staying in the same hotel as last time, so we're doing some of that," Reddam said. "It's a different year. He's a different horse, but it does have a nice, familiar feeling to it."

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.



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