Nyquist has to dig deep but remains perfect in FrontRunner

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September 26th, 2015

Following easy wins in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Best Pal (G2), Nyquist was put to the test in Saturday’s $300,750 FrontRunner Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita before gamely prevailing by three-quarters of a length.

A son of freshman sire Uncle Mo, the Reddam Racing colorbearer is now unbeaten from four career starts and confirmed his status as a leading contender for the October 31 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland.

Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Nyquist flashed speed from the starting gate and tracked pacesetter Go Long in second through opening fractions of :23.04, :47.04 and 1:12.47. The bay colt floated Mt Veeder wide entering the first turn and that rival was under a snug hold while an up-close third during the early stages.

Nyquist moved to take a short lead leaving the far turn but Mt Veeder loomed a danger to his outside as he drew alongside in upper stretch. He shrugged off the challenge momentarily, opening a short advantage, but Swipe rallied boldly up the rail to reach even terms with less than sixteenth of a mile remaining.

The pair brushed slightly before Nyquist reasserted control in deep stretch, edging away under the wire. The stewards flashed the inquiry after the finish before deeming the contact inconsequential.

Off as the 1-2 favorite, Nyquist completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.89.

Swipe, who improved upon a non-threatening second in the Del Mar Futurity, wound 5 ¾ lengths clear of third-placer Hollywood Don. Rare Candy came next in the eight-horse field and was followed by Blameitonthelaw, Mt Veeder, Go Long and On Fire.

Nyquist increased his earnings to $513,600 and could very likely be the Juvenile favorite, pending the results of the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Champagne (G1) next weekend.

Bred in Kentucky by Summerhill Farm, Nyquist passed through the auction ring three times, selling for $180,000 as a weanling and $230,000 as a yearling before being purchased for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2yo sale. He’s the first foal from the Foresty mare Seeking Gabrielle, who is a half-sister to Grade 3-winning Seeking the Sky, the dam of Grade 1-winning millionaire Sahara Sky and the stakes-qinning Animal Style.

FrontRunner quotes:

Doug O’Neill: Suggested he’d have to be satisfied with the win, the courage he showed, and getting a route the first time: “All those. Coming back as quick as he was, and for him to be in between a three-horse team going into the first turn, that really scared me. Most horses are going to really be in trouble in that setting, and he showed the class that he has to overcome that and still finish up strong.

“That stretch run was probably a treadmill test for the cardiologist. I guess I’m OK, but that was truly so exciting, but when you’re 3-5 (actually 1-2) or whatever his odds were, you’re thinking you’re going to win by five (lengths) geared down, the jockey looking under his arm, all that stuff. This one, Mario really had to ride a smart race after the way it started and through the stretch. He did a great job.”

About the schedule for Nyquist: “We’ll have to huddle up with Team Reddam and figure out a game plan. This wasn’t exactly like the way we planned it. We were a little bit cocky before the race, but at the end of the day, this is what we wanted to do. We wanted to win and we wanted to see if he’d two-turn in his own back yard. It’s so much easier to do that instead of shipping. Sometimes they get a little excited and all that stuff.

“Now with a two-turn win under his belt against the best two-year-olds the West Coast has to offer, I think the plan will be for him to come out of it good and head back east in a few weeks, probably.” 

Keith Desormeaux, trainer of runner-up Swipe: “I thought he moved forwardly today. I told Kent to unsaddle him (during the stewards’ inquiry) because it’s hot out here and he ran hard. There wasn’t enough banging or interference to cause a disqualification. He’s danced every dance. We’ll take a good luck at him and make sure he’s all right and we’ll look at the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile). Why not? This is what we all live for, right?”

Peter Miller, trainer of third-placer Hollywood Don: “First time on dirt and I thought he had a good trip. I thought the horse ran very well. Just the pace wasn’t as fast as I thought; I thought the pace would be faster and hotter, but the horse kicked home good. I thought he ran very well.”

(On future possibilities) “Yes. We’ll consider all of our options, including the Breeders’ (Cup) Juvenile Dirt and the Turf.”

Mario Gutierrez: “He’s been on the lead in the past but he was tougher than I expected today. I was expecting him to be easier but he was tough, he was in the bridle. I adjusted though and it worked out in the end.

“It was good to have an exciting finish to make the race exciting. Nyquist, he likes to fight. In his first race, we went head-to-head with a horse of Peter Miller’s. Nyquist doesn’t like anybody to pass him and that’s a good thing. He has a good mentality and I think that’s why he stays undefeated.”

Kent Deormeaux, jockey Swipe: “I got head and head with the winner, and he definitely knocked me off my feet, but he also re-surged. He’s obviously undefeated for a reason. In hindsight, I wish I would have gone around. I think I would have won if I would have gone around.

“I think he’s a really, really good horse. You know the hype around Nyquist, and he beat me by a lip, so I think if I went around, I would have won. I’ve always been very high on him.”

Photos courtesy of Benoit Photos