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Nyquist ‘Fantastic’, Eyes FL Derby

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Nyquist | Benoit Photo

By Ben Massam

Reddam Racing’s Nyquist (Uncle Mo), champion juvenile of 2015 and an impressive winner of Monday’s GII San Vicente S. in his sophomore debut, has emerged from the race in good order, trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed via phone Tuesday.

“He looks fantastic,” said O’Neill. “He came out of it in great shape. He ate up good, legs were ice cold. We couldn’t be happier.”

Shortening up to seven furlongs Monday, Nyquist pressed a hot pace along the inside and shook off a challenge from MGSW Exaggerator (Curlin) to score decisively by 1 1/2 lengths. The bay stopped the clock in a scorching 1:20.71, earning a career-top 100 Beyer Speed Figure for the performance.The colt is likely to make one more start prior to his prospective engagement in the GI Kentucky Derby.

“I think the strong direction, more than likely, is going to be the [GI] Florida Derby,” O’Neill added when asked about plans for the coming weeks.

The Apr. 2 Gulfstream fixture–which carries a bonus of $1 million to Nyquist as a Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale graduate–could set the champion up for a potential matchup with Mohaymen (Tapit), recent winner of Gulfstream’s GII Lambholm South Holy Bull S. The pair emerged as the two individual favorites for Pool 2 of the GI Kentucky Derby Future Wager Sunday, with Mohaymen closing at 4-1 to Nyquist’s 7-1. Mohaymen is expected to make his next start in the GII Fountain of Youth S. Feb. 27.

Winner of the GII Best Pal S. and GI Del Mar Futurity last summer, Nyquist added a victory in Santa Anita’s GI FrontRunner S. and closed out his undefeated juvenile season with a score in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His victory in the San Vicente was his sixth from as many starts, firmly re-affirming his spot at the top of his class.

Frank Conversation Targets UAE Derby…

O’Neill and Reddam teamed up to mint another graded stakes winner over the weekend when Frank Conversation (Quality Road) captured Golden Gate’s GIII El Camino Real Derby Saturday. The colt, who graduated at first asking in a down-the-hill turf sprint at Santa Anita, annexed the California Derby at Golden Gate Jan. 16 prior to his recent triumph. Despite the fact that Frank Conversation’s three wins have come on turf and synthetic surfaces, O’Neill told the TDN’s Bill Finley he believes his trainee has legitimate excuses for his two losses on dirt and deserves another chance at the highest level.

“We are definitely thinking Kentucky Derby with him,” O’Neill explained. “I’m not worried about his two dirt races. I think you can put a line through them. In the [GI] Los Alamitos Futurity we put him on the lead, and that’s just not the right style for him. The other one was a maiden sprint and that’s not the kind of race where you can make any judgments about him.”

In the interim, O’Neill said that a trip to Dubai for the lucrative Mar. 26 G2 UAE Derby is likely in the cards. O’Neill previously sent 2012 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up He’s Had Enough (Tapit) to the UAE Derby the following season.

“We’re leaning toward running [Frank Conversation] in the UAE Derby,” O’Neill said. “I am going to meet with Paul Reddam shortly and make some definitive plans for him. But the UAE Derby is our goal. I understand that if you go all the way to Dubai you might zap some of his energy and that could affect him when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, but the purse is so large at $2 million. For us, that may be our Kentucky Derby. We’ll see.”

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