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Nyquist favorite to win Preakness Stakes

Going off at 3-5 ahead of second leg of Triple Crown

by Pat Pickens @Pat_Pickens / Staff Writer

In Nyquist's final tuneup before the Preakness Stakes, he got in a quick jog and a visit from a close friend Friday.

Dennis O'Neill, the brother of Nyquist's trainer Doug, made it to Baltimore on Thursday and watched Nyquist work out Friday morning. Dennis, whose job is to select horses for owner J. Paul Reddam's racing team, picked Nyquist at an auction last year.

"I haven't seen him in a week and a half, and his coat looks amazing," Dennis O'Neill said at a press conference posted to Maryland Racing's YouTube page. "His weight is good, then to see him jog this morning like he did, very confident going into [Saturday]."

Nyquist, named for Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist, has made Dennis O'Neill look good so far. Nyquist has not lost in eight career races, including the 2016 Kentucky Derby, and earned more than $4 million. Nyquist will put that streak on the line as the favorite (3-5) at the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland on Saturday.

"The hope was that he'd be a good horse, and a stakes horse, but he's went way beyond our expectations, or at least my expectations," said Dennis O'Neill, who posted the winning bid of $400,000 for Nyquist in March 2015. "I told Paul when I bought him, 'That's the most beautiful horse I ever bought.' He's just an amazing looking animal; smart, just very, very smart."

In his final workout before the race Saturday, Nyquist took a brief jog around the track. He will run out of the No. 3 post position at the Preakness. Post time is 6:45 p.m. ET (NBC).

Tweet from @PreaknessStakes: Post Position Draw Results! ���� #Preakness

"It was designed to be a nice, easy day," Doug O'Neill said. "He had a good gallop [Thursday], and he jogged two miles; real composed and looked really good. Everyone is smiling and happy and optimistic for tomorrow."

The O'Neill's are Michigan natives, and Doug said Friday that Dennis was a hockey player as a kid. Although Doug said "neither one of us were very good" at sports, they enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with competition.

"I love that angle of sports," he said. "I'm sure when they're going around and going to the gate, there'll be some butterflies in [jockey] Mario [Gutierrez's] stomach and in our stomach, but that's what it's all about. That's what sports are all about."

Doug O'Neill said Thursday he was not concerned about a muddy track, and he was asked again Friday about the prospect of rain affecting Nyquist. Forecasts are calling for a 90 percent chance of rain Saturday in Baltimore, but O'Neill said he's not worried about his horse.

"With a horse like Nyquist, I'm not overly concerned about the weather," O'Neill said. "I'd love to see it be nice just to have a lot of people out and just for the track. Pimlico puts on such an amazing show for these awesome horses. But as far as rain or shine, we're not going to change anything shoeing wise. He's going to wear the same shoes he's got on."

O'Neill mapped out his prerace plan and knows his horse will be ready.

"We'll pull his feed tub about eight hours before the race and we'll pull his water bucket at six before the race," O'Neill said. "Once he pulls the feed tub, he knows and the game face begins. So it's exciting to watch that all unfold."

Gustav's Red Wings teammates are taking notice.

"It's got to be cool for [Nyquist] to get some attention from the big Kentucky Derby," Red Wings forward Riley Sheahan said Friday. "To have your name associated with the winning horse and in an event that people watch around the world … it's awesome."

Tweet from @GNyquist: Good luck tomorrow @TheNyquistHorse!!! @PreaknessStakes @DougONeill1

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