Nyquist overcame an extreme outside post position, and a wide trip on both turns, to prove best in the Oct. 31 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland. The son of freshman sire Uncle Mo locked up the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old with the half-length decision, remaining unbeaten in his fifth career start, and Nyquist jumped to the top of the Road to the Kentucky Leaderboard, increasing his total to 30 with the 20-point first-place prize.
These are the same connections of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another – owner Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez – and Nyquist is an early favorite for the 2016 Run for the Roses.
Nyquist was never far back during the early stages of the Juvenile, racing within striking range in midpack as pacesetter Riker established contested fractions in :23.49, :47.62and 1:12. Gutierrez gave his mount the cue rounding the far turn and Nyquist accelerated toward the lead on the far outside, seizing the advantage as the field straightened into the short stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race.
“The race didn’t unfold like I expected,” O’Neill said. “We thought, being on the outside there, with kind of a short run to the first turn, we’d be up on the lead, saving ground. I have to watch the replay, but from my recollection we were five or six wide.
“But Mario did his Mario thing where he never panicked.”
Nyquist passed the sixteenth pole in midstretch with a one-length advantage. Swipe offered a good run from the tail of the field to reduce the margin late, but Nyquist comfortably held his rival safe, stopping the teletimer in 1:43.79.
“I had a little trouble getting over from my outside post, but except for the first turn I had good position,” Gutierrez said. “Being wide wasn’t a problem. I didn’t want to get to the rail and get covered up. He was running fine on the outside and so we stayed there.
“I’ve always had confidence in this horse. He’s a good one.”
Off as he 9-2 co-second choice among 14 runners, Nyquist returned his backers an $11.40 win payout. Swipe, a 29-1 longshot despite finishing second to Nyquist in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1) at Santa Antia on September 26, finished 2 ¼ length clear of third-placer Brody’s Cause, who experienced a troubled trip when stopped in traffic in the midst of a rally on the far turn.
It was another neck back to Exaggerator in fourth and next under the wire came Cocked and Loaded, Riker, 7-2 favorite Greenpointcrusader, Conquest Big E, Waterloo Bridge, Siding Spring, Rated R Superstar, Unbridled Outlaw, Isotherm and Ralis.
Tale of S’avall was scratched and Tom’s Ready, who came back to finish second in Sunday’s Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs, did not draw in from the also-eligibles list.
Nyquist won his career debut, a June 3 maiden special weight event at Santa Anita, by a head. He followed with 5 ¼-length victory in the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar on August 8 and then rolled by 3 ¾ lengths in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) on September 7.
He was exiting a near one-length tally in the aforementioned FrontRunner. With the $1.1 million payday, the bay colt has now earned $1,613,600.
Nyquist was bred in Kentucky by Summerhill Farm and sold for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-old sale. He’s out of the Foresty mare Seeking Gabrielle.
O’Neill is looking forward to the Kentucky Derby trail with Nyquist.
“From Day one, before this horse ever debuted, he had the mind and the stride of a two-turn horse,” O’Neill said about the prospect of longer distances next spring.
“So he showed us a lot, and I think we can be really confident if we stay injury free for an exciting three-year-old year…I think it's such a huge asset to have speed, class, and stamina.”