It appears that a rematch against Exaggerator in the Belmont Stakes won’t come anytime soon for Nyquist, after news that the Kentucky Derby winner will not be running in the final leg of the Belmont Stakes due to illness. Trainer Doug O’Neill stated on Tuesday that Nyquist recently developed a fever and an elevated white cell count. Nyquist had a temperature of 102 and was sent to receive blood work.
“He’s fine, but he’s got an elevated white blood cell count,” O’Neill’s assistant Jack Sisterson said from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where Nyquist is recovering. “We just want to do right by him and get him 100 percent.”
“Sometimes it happens when a horse runs back quick,” Sisterson said, referring to the short two-week turnaround between the Derby and Preakness. “For races like these, horses have to be on top of their game, Unfortunately, there’ll be no Belmont.”
Any attempts at a Triple Crown were dashed last Saturday when Exaggerator prevailed over Nyquist at the Preakness despite four previous losses. A victory in the Belmont Stakes, which are set to take place on June 11, was a pretty good opportunity for Nyquist to avenge the loss of his Triple Crown hopes. Prior to his illness, Nyquist entered the Preakness undefeated in eight races, including a victory in the Kentucky Derby. But, it was Exaggerator who had the last laugh, earning victory in the Preakness while Nyquist finished a distant third.
Nyquist is set to be shipped back to California once he is healthy again, and could potentially travel to Saratoga for the Travers Stakes. This is the second time Nyquist has had an elevated white blood cell count, after also experiencing a fever in April. He was able to return successfully and race to victory at the Kentucky Derby.
While Exaggerator’s rematch with Nyquist is no longer a featured headline of the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness champ looks to face plenty of competition from other rivals, including Cherry Wine, who finished second in the Preakness, and Lani, who came in fifth place. Governor Malibu, who finished second in the Peter Pan at Belmont, is also bound for the race, so Exaggerator will not be short on competition.