By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The most exciting two minutes in sports crowed a winner during the 142nd Kentucky Derby, and its trainer got his start in Dearborn.
A 3-1 odds favorite prior to the race, Nyquist didn’t disappoint winning the 1 1/4-mile race in 2:01.31 remaining undefeated at 8-0.
The horse’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, has a connection to Michigan, growing up in Dearborn and attending Divine Child Elementary School.
Nyquist was discovered last year at an auction by O’Neill’s brother, Dennis O’Neill, who also grew up in Dearborn.
Owner, J. Paul Reddam purchased Nyquist in 2015 for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton sale.
“This is such a special horse,” Doug O’Neill told the Associated Press after the race. “You can see it in his eye on a daily basis and he’s such a professional. Any human sport, he’d be the top-notch athlete. He’s just first class.”
The family got its racing roots from their father, Patrick O’Neill, who attended races at the Detroit Race Course and Hazel Park Raceway.
Attending races with his father brought out the love for racing and sent Doug O’Neill searching for jobs at race tracks.
Along with the trainer, the horse’s name is one familiar to the Detroit area, named after Detroit Red Wings right winger Gustav Nyquist.
Reddam grew up in Windsor, Canada, as an avid Red Wings fan and has named horses after players before.
Previous horse names included, Datsyuk, Kronwall, Lidstrom, Mrazek, Tatar and Zetterberg.
On the day of the derby, Nyquist received a visit from the National Hockey League trophy, the Stanley Cup, prior to the race.
“You just felt there was no way you could be nervous because you just felt like you were going in the gym with Kobe Bryant,” O’Neill told the Associated Press. “You just knew he was going to figure out a way to pull it out at the end and he did.
“Mario gets a lot of credit, too,” he said referring to Nyquist’s jockey, Mario Gutierrez. “What a ride, what a ride.”
“We got a beautiful trip from the start to the end,” Gutierrez told the Associated Press after the race.
A Churchill Downs crowd of 167,227 saw O’Neill and Reddam win for the second time in four years, also winning in 2012 with horse I’ll Have Another.
O’Neill and Reddam are currently in their eighth year working together in the horse racing world.
Next for the team is the 141st Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore May 21, and the 148th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., June 11 on the road for the triple crown.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)