2016 Kentucky Derby Horses


On May 7th, sports fans across the country and throughout the world will turn their attention to Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, where the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby will be held. With twenty talented three-year-old Thoroughbreds vying for supremacy in “the greatest two minutes in sports,” you can bet the race will be an exciting event that you won’t want to miss!


By far the most accomplished horse in this year’s Derby is Nyquist, named for hockey player Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings. Nyquist has gone undefeated in seven races, including victories in the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Florida Derby. Racing for the team of owner Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez—the same team that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another—Nyquist seems like a horse that only runs as fast as necessary to win. Should he add the Derby to his already glowing résumé, he could start to draw comparisons to the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Thanks to his excellent speed, Nyquist should be near the early lead in the Derby, a perfect position that could give him every chance to win.


But many experts feel that this year’s Kentucky Derby is a wide-open race with many horses that have a strong chance to win, including Exaggerator. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden Keith’s three-time Derby-winning brother Kent, Exaggerator has been beaten three times by Nyquist, but showed improvement when switching to a come-from-behind running style in the Santa Anita Derby, a race Exaggerator won with a brilliant burst of speed coming off the final turn. A son of the two-time U.S. Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame racehorse Curlin, Exaggerator—like his sire—seems to be improving as he gets older. Can he finally turn the tables on Nyquist?

Mor Spirit

Few trainers have enjoyed as much Derby success as Bob Baffert, who has won the race four times, including last year with American Pharoah. This year, his contender is Mor Spirit, a talented runner that has never finished worse than second in seven races. Owned by Michael Lund Peterson, one of the founders of Pandora Jewelry, Mor Spirit carries his head low when he runs in a manner reminiscent of the legendary racehorse and stallion A.P. Indy, and while he doesn’t care for running in mud, Mor Spirit should be a major contender for victory if the track is dry. He will be ridden by the 53-year-old veteran jockey Gary Stevens, who is still riding with remarkable success despite undergoing knee replacement surgery in 2014.

Brody’s Cause, Creator, Trojan Nation, Gun Runner, and Lani

There are many other talented and exciting horses to follow in the Derby, including the late-running pair of Brody’s Cause and Creator, who should be flying from the back of the pack in the homestretch. Trojan Nation is a “maiden,” having never won a race, but his game runner-up effort in the Wood Memorial has earned him a spot in the Derby—will he become the first maiden since 1933 to win the Derby? Gun Runner has a reputation for being one of the most versatile and tactical horses in the race; his jockey, the rising star Florent Geroux, can place Gun Runner just about anywhere in the pack and know his colt will have a good chance at winning. Then there’s the international traveler Lani, a Japanese racehorse that won the UAE Derby in Dubai. With the legendary Japanese jockey Yutaka Take in the saddle, Lani will add an element of international intrigue to the race.

The Kentucky Derby will be broadcast live on NBC starting at 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 7 (consult your local listings.) Several other major races at Churchill Downs, including the Distaff Turf Mile featuring the amazing mare Tepin, will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network starting at 12:00 p.m. ET. Be sure to tune in and watch your favorite horses bid for glory!

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and racing enthusiast who considers Zenyatta to be his all-time favorite racehorse. He is the founder of the horse racing website TheTurfBoard.com and writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.


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