Four of the last five editions of the Kentucky Derby have been won by colts conditioned by California-based trainers and ridden by California-based jockeys, and California-trained horses have won three in a row. The “Run for the Roses” went to I’ll Have Another in 2012, the California-bred California Chrome in 2014, American Pharoah in 2015, and Nyquist in 2016.
While four out of five years and three in a row can’t be called a trend in an event that has been around since 1875, it is a noteworthy achievement if not a sure sign of recent domination by Golden-State runners. Especially considering that California-based horses have now won six of the last seven Triple Crown races.
One can only conjecture about the reasons for the sensational California showing; and it may be merely a random occurrence. Whatever the reason or reasons, the Golden-State Thoroughbred contingent can take pride, at least for a while. To add plenty of ammunition to their bragging rights, American Pharoah won the 2015 Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic and California Chrome won the 2016 Dubai World Cup. Both horses were ridden by Californian Victor Espinoza.
Nyquist ran a very fast Kentucky Derby (2:01.31) and looked like he did it with relative ease. He joins lofty company in becoming only the eighth colt to win the Derby while undefeated. Should Nyquist win the Preakness, he will attract the attention of the world beyond horse racing as he tries to complete the first back-to-back Triple Crown victories since Seattle Slew and Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1977 and 1978.
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