Is Nyquist the one to beat in the Best Pal?
If you're grading Best Pal (G2) runners on overall strength of pedigree, top to bottom, Nyquist might just rate the best.
From the first crop of champion Uncle Mo, he's also the first foal from a Forestry three-quarter sister to Grade 3 winner Seeking the Sky (dam of Grade 1-winning millionaire Sahara Sky). Second dam Seeking Regina was an Adirondack (G2) winner who produced two other Saratoga graded stakes performers as juveniles, Seeking the Money and Seeking It All. Also close up in the family is Grade 2 heroine Just Jenda.
Moreover, Nyquist has been profitable at every stage of his auction life. The $180,000 Keeneland November weanling went on to bring $230,000 as a September yearling, and he progressed to $400,000 as a two-year-old in training at Fasig-Tipton Florida.
Even better, the Doug O'Neill trainee also has a lot going for him on form. He had to show grit and resolve to make a winning debut from the rail at Santa Anita, where he withstood a fierce pace battle to edge Annie's Candy by a head in near track-record time. Annie's Candy, who'd had the benefit of a prior run, came back to flatter Nyquist in his subsequent maiden romp. Finishing fifth in a low-key debut was Exaggerator, who rolled late to win here July 25.
Observe what O'Neill told Del Mar publicity Thursday:
"I think it is the best group of 2-year-olds I’ve ever had. Nyquist has been, to us, the leader of the pack so far. But we’ve got to see him do it on Saturday, of course. He’s training well, we think he has drawn a good post position."
With that in mind, it can be argued that Nyquist has also been flattered by stablemates Found Money and Mrazek. Found Money beat Mrazek in the Santa Anita Juvenile. Mrazek, who was nailed by Swipe in the Summer Juvenile Championship at Los Alamitos, returned triumphant in the Cal-restricted Graduation.
If O'Neill's judgment is correct about Nyquist's being at the top of his barn's juvenile depth chart, he could be the one to beat at 3-1.
Of course, things often aren't that neat. Swipe has steadily improved with racing experience and added distance, as you'd expect for a Keith Desormeaux trainee, especially if he's an April 30 foal by Birdstone. The $5,000 Keeneland September bargain is out of a Grand Slam mare from the further family of Del Mar Debutante (G2) victress Batroyale and champion Outstandingly.
Swipe deserves credit for rallying into second at an inadequate 4 1/2 furlongs on debut, and he also performed creditably when third in the Tremont. Third time out, he closed well to deny the aforementioned Mrazek at Los Al. That provided an indication of how much Swipe had improved since his debut: he left his maiden conqueror Dubdubwatson more than seven lengths back in third. Swipe gets an extra furlong to work with in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal, and he's got every right to maintain his momentum.
For that reason, Tremont runner-up Paynes Prairie isn't certain to beat Swipe again. On the other hand, the Tale of Ekati colt did come back to break his maiden convincingly. And if he hadn't been sold privately before the Sanford (G3), we'd have a better line on his progress. Tremont winner Cocked and Loaded was only sixth in the Sanford, and Paynes Prairie might have turned the tables. I'll be interested to see how Michael Pender's new recruit fares here.
Annie's Candy likewise might be a different proposition since his clash with Nyquist. The Peter Miller juvenile was much the best in his third start, drawing off by 3 3/4 lengths at Los Alamitos. The son of freshman sire Twirling Candy sold for $105,000 at Barretts March.