Whether it’s fair or not, the hallmarks of a trainer’s career are entrenched in the United States are more often than not defined by the Triple Crown. Trainer Doug O’Neill has emerged as one of the best in the business with over $107 million grossed in earnings. This was supposed to be his coming out party in the Triple Crown.
Just like in 2012.
During that campaign four years ago, I’ll Have Another stormed the derby trail with an undefeated run that was enough to make him the front runner heading in to the Triple Crown. He would certainly not disappoint. Coming off a win at the Santa Anita Derby, I’ll Have Another would win the first two legs of the 2012 Triple Crown in decisive fashion.
But bad news befell the horse when he arrived at Belmont Park. Doug O’Neill held a Friday night press conference to announce that the Triple Crown hopeful would have to bow due to a tendon injury. It was a crushing blow both to the competitive race horse and the trainer himself.
But he would go on to learn from that lesson in a big way.
Top-10 Moments in 2016 Triple Crown
#10 – Rivalries Are Born on Derby Trail
#9 – Everyone Loves Lani
#8 – Creator Wins Belmont Stakes
#7 – Danzing Candy’s Debut
#6 – Uncle Mo Emerges As Major Stallion
#5 – Gun Runner The Route Runner
When Nyquist won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, he instantly became the horse to beat in his age grade. He would continue to prove that he was the top of his class with win after win after win after win. After he trounced Mohaymen at the Florida Derby, there was talk that he was unbeatable and he proved so by winning the Kentucky Derby.
Doug O’Neill was obviously on cloud nine. A lot of talk was made about how light Nyquist’s training regimen was, but that was by design. There was no way that O’Neill was going to overwork Nyquist and he did everything he could to avoid the type of injury that befell I’ll Have Another.
Calm and collected, Doug O’Neill entered the Preakness Stakes with the favored horse and another shot at the Triple Crown he missed out on four years ago. Yet, sport can be cruel. Nyquist was caught in the mud at the Preakness Stakes and fell to third, suffering his first defeat. After the race, he came down with a low grade fever that almost immediately forced him to withdraw from the Belmont Stakes.
Fortunately, Nyquist has made a triumphant return to the track at Santa Anita and will hope to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup. Why is this a silver lining for Doug O’Neill? Well, the California-based trainer isn’t a coveted guide on the level of Baffert or Pletcher despite such significant wins. What Nyquist’s run did to was cement the fact that O’Neill and his training team have an eye for championship horses.
If and when he returns to the Triple Crown, he will be touting another horse of immense talent. It’s simply how O’Neill operates. He’s exceptional at taking care of his horses and is now a big player in the training game. The best is yet to come.