After spiking a high grade fever following his first career loss at the Preakness Stakes, Nyquist will miss the Belmont Stakes. The upcoming race is slated for June 11th, and the extended break between the last two legs of the Triple Crown gave slim hope that the colt would be ready for a third showdown with Exaggerator. Sadly, trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed our fears today.
“He is officially out,” O’Neill remarked. “Right about the time we got his blood work back this morning, which showed an elevated white blood count, his temperature went back up. We just have to get strong with the antibiotics and get him right. He’s under the weather now, which we all get once in a while. Thank God it’s nothing leg-related. We’ll live to fight another day.”
O’Neill’s mention of a “leg-related” injury is a reference to I’ll Have Another, who came up lame prior to the Belmont Stakes and was able to complete his Triple Crown bid. A fever can be very serious and difficult to manage within thoroughbreds, but it’s not an impossible hurdle to overcome. It simply takes time.
Nyquist will still have plenty to run for in the remainder of the season. The Travers Stakes feels like the optimal return date for him over the summer, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic looming in the distant future. Obviously, we’re in a wait and see moment and all focus remains on getting the champion back to a healthy form.
Assistant trainer and bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill spoke with Maryland Racing this morning while further confirming that Nyquist will miss the Belmont Stakes. “He looked good this morning. He had his head in the feed tub and was eating and looked bright-eyed, but off the blood work something isn’t right,” said Dennis. “It also looks like he’s lost some weight. This is the first race that looks like it really beat him up. I’m glad he’s going home.”
The fact that Nyquist will miss the Belmont Stakes makes Exaggerator the prohibitive favorite from here on in, and he will be looking to join some elite company at the Test of the Champion. Eighteen horses have won just the Belmont and Preakness, with the three most recent being Tabasco Cat (1994), Point Given (2001) and Afleet Alex (2005).