Nyquist Remains Perfect in the KY Derby

Nyquist (right) | Coady photography


It's the GI Kentucky Derby. The 'greatest two minutes in sports.' Twenty horses–a race in which literally almost anything can happen. In a sense, Nyquist (Uncle Mo) had nothing to prove coming into the 142nd Run for the Roses Saturday afternoon. All a horse can do is take on and defeat those that choose to line up against him, and that he had done. On seven occasions from as many appearances, over racetracks from west to east, the bay colt with the red shadow roll and the nasal strip carried by runners from the Doug O'Neill barn had finished ahead of each of the 51 rivals he had faced. His body of work had earned him a quote of 3-1 favoritism on handicapper Mike Battaglia's morning line, but given the unpredictability of a race like the Kentucky Derby, there were plenty of gamblers who were willing to take him on. Despite a victory over then-favorite Mohaymen (Tapit) going nine furlongs for the first time in the GI Xpressbet.com Florida Derby some five weeks ago, many questioned the colt's ability to stay Saturday's 10-furlong trip and were unwilling to swallow the skinny post-time odds of 23-10. But given the coolest of cool rides by Mario Gutierrez off a demanding pace, he silenced his critics–not for the first time in his career–and held off a late surge from GI Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator (Curlin) to give owner Paul Reddam, O'Neill and Gutierrez their second Derby wins. Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}) was a perfect-trip third.

Saturday, Churchill Downs
KENTUCKY DERBY PRESENTED BY YUM! BRANDS-GI, $2,391,600, CD, 5-7, 3yo, 1 1/4m, 2:01.31, ft.
1–NYQUIST, 126, c, 3, by Uncle Mo
Fasig-Tipton-Winner-Logo1st Dam: Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry
2nd Dam: Seeking Regina, by Seeking the Gold
3rd Dam: Fulbright Scholar, by Cox's Ridge
($180,000 Wlg '13 KEENOV; $230,000 Ylg '14 KEESEP;
$400,000 2yo '15 FTFMAR). O-Reddam Racing LLC;
B-Summerhill Farm (KY); T-Doug F. O'Neill; J-Mario Gutierrez.
$1,631,600. Lifetime Record: Ch. 2-year-old colt & MGISW,
8-8-0-0, $4,954,200. Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Werk Nick Rating: A+.[bullet ad=”dromoland-salesgrad”][bullet ad=”dromoland-nyquist-new”][bullet ad=”paramount-congratulations”][bullet ad=”niall-brennan-nbs-graduate”][bullet ad=”grovendale-dam-sold-by”][bullet ad=”kbif-derbyoaks-2016″]2–Exaggerator, 126, c, 3, Curlin">Curlin–Dawn Raid, by Vindication.
($110,000 Ylg '14 KEESEP). O-Big Chief Racing, LLC, Head of
Plains Partners LLC, Rocker O Ranch, LLC et al.; B-Joseph B
Murphy (KY); T-J. Keith Desormeaux. $400,000.[bullet ad=”bsw-bloodstock-exaggerator-double”][bullet ad=”warrendale-sold-congratulations-to-all-the-connections”][bullet ad=”mayberry-farm-graduate”]3–Gun Runner, 126, c, 3, Candy Ride (Arg)–Quiet Giant, by Giant's Causeway. O-Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, Three Chimneys Farm, LLC & Besilu Stables; B-Besilu Stables, LLC
(KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen. $200,000.[bullet ad=”ea-bloodstock-2-yo-selection”][bullet ad=”ea-equine-analysis-systems”][bullet ad=”niall-brennan-nbs-graduate”][bullet ad=”bridlewood-farm-training-graduate”]Margins: 1 1/4, 3 1/4, HD. Odds: 2.30, 5.10, 10.30.
Also Ran: Mohaymen, Suddenbreakingnews, Destin, Brody's Cause, Mo Tom, Lani, Mor Spirit, My Man Sam, Tom's Ready, Creator, Outwork, Danzing Candy, Trojan Nation, Oscar Nominated, Majesto, Whitmore, Shagaf. Scratched: Laoban, Cherry Wine.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

Bred to Be a Star…
Bred in Kentucky by Tim Hyde Jr.'s Summerhill Farm (click here for a story from Jonathan Murrietta on Summerhill Farm), Nyquist made the first of three trips through a sales pavilion at the 2013 Keeneland November Sale, where he was knocked down for $180,000, the sixth most expensive of 26 first-crop weanlings to sell that year. He found himself back at Keeneland 10 months later, where he was hammered down for $230,000 at the 2014 September sale (10th priciest of 95 to sell) and was ticketed for the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Florida March Sale. The March foal, produced by a half-sister to the dam of GI Metropolitan H. hero Sahara Sky (Pleasant Tap), touted himself at the under-tack show, breezing an eighth of a mile in :10 2/5, and was scooped up by Dennis O'Neill for $400,000 (4/41). (Click here for a Bill Finley story on James Keogh, who originally bought Seeking Gabrielle off the track and click here to read Steve Sherack's Q&A with Dennis O'Neill)

Some 93 days after his purchase, Nyquist found himself in a five-furlong Santa Anita at odds of 7-1 and fought out a strong pace while buried down inside, was headed in the stretch and boxed back gamely to score by a head. Fifth that day? A 28-1 chance named Exaggerator.

The handsome bay made light work of the 2-year-old series at Del Mar, besting Swipe (Birdstone) by 5 1/4 lengths in the GII Best Pal S. Aug. 8 and by 3 3/4 lengths in the GI Del Mar Futurity before stretching out to two turns. His 3/4-length defeat of Swipe in the Sept. 26 GI FrontRunner S. was more workmanlike than spectacular and the naysayers began to come out in force. That group's collective skepticism was only enhanced when Nyquist drew 12 in the field of 14 in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Oct. 31 and those who believed got 9-2 that Halloween afternoon at Keeneland. Trapped out the entire way and reserved in midfield off a wicked pace, he was forced to cover ground on the turn, but nevertheless fought on and beat Swipe by a half-length, with the late-running Brody's Cause (Giant's Causeway) third.

A perfect season, an Eclipse Award and a future home at Darley already secured, Nyquist was programmed for a two-race preparation leading up to the Run for the Roses and got his 2016 season off on the right foot with a pace-pressing defeat of Exaggerator in the seven-furlong GII San Vicente S. Feb. 15. With a potential $1-million bonus on the line in the Florida Derby, Nyquist was the 6-5 second choice in a clash of the titans with then-unbeaten Mohaymen. For a few strides with three furlongs to race over a rain-affected strip, it appeared as if the match race could develop. But Mario Gutierrez floated his gray rival wide into the lane, kicked away and proved an easy winner as Majesto (Tiznow) closed for second.

Say 'Uncle'…
Off in a flash once Danzing Candy (Twirling Candy) was loaded into stall 20, Nyquist broke well and was kept in about the four path, as Gun Runner made best use of his low draw in five to lead narrowly through the opening exchanges. Outwork (Uncle Mo), one of three in the race for his sire, was also prominent , while Danzing Candy, off just a touch slowly, mustered in the center of the track beneath Mike Smith to lead under the line with a circuit to travel. The pace that most analysts anticipated would be moderate at best, was sharp indeed, as the opening quarter-mile was posted in :22.58.

As he did in the Santa Anita Derby, Danzing Candy set a fierce gallop, and Gutierrez made the ultimately crucial decision to allow the Halo Farms runner to clear, at which point Nyquist was guided away from the inside and pulled to the outside and into the clear for a stalking trip around the clubhouse turn. With the field strung out over the better part of 20 lengths, Danzing Candy took them along about three lengths clear of Nyquist and Gun Runner through an opening half-mile in a testing :45.72 and positions remained largely unchanged for the next couple of furlongs, though Florent Geroux had guided Gun Runner into the two path while Nyquist had edged up ever closer from third. The Winchell runner, last-out winner of the GII Louisiana Derby, was the first to make a serious move, as he collared and passed Danzing Candy leaving the three-eighths pole, but Nyquist was right at his saddle towel as Outwork began showing signs of fatigue from fourth.

Gun Runner was clinging to a short lead at the head of the lane, but Gutierrez had Nyquist in full flight and the duo struck to the lead with a little more than three-sixteenths of a mile to the Derby wire. With Gun Runner effectively neutralized behind and to the left, Exaggerator–who was methodically and deftly maneuvered through the pack by Kent Desormeaux after finding some traffic on the turn–was steered out and around the rallying Mohaymen upon straightening, gained nicely into the final furlong and was getting to the winner, but the wire came in time. Suddenbreakingnews (Mineshaft) was bothered at the break, lingered well behind for seven furlongs and turned in a solid late finish for fifth, just behind Mohaymen. With the victory, Nyquist becomes the first undefeated champion to win the Derby since Seattle Slew in 1977.

“I feel really good for the horse,” said Reddam, who teamed with O'Neill and Gutierrez to win the 2012 Derby with I'll Have Another (Flower Alley). “Because along the way the last year, he has taken a lot of shots for whatever reason. And I think he proved all his critics wrong today. So I'm really proud of him and the whole O'Neill team and Mario's ride. It was just flawless from beginning to end.”

Added Gutierrez, a former star in Western Canada and now two-for-two in the Derby: “It's very, very special. The trip was amazing. We got a beautiful trip, you know, from the start to the end. It's the only race we have, like, 19 other horses trying to get to the wire first. But, like I say, I get the confidence from Nyquist. I was able to work him since he got to the track, so I know him a lot, and I trust him. And I believe he trusts me as well.”

Days after Nyquist's win in the Del Mar Futurity, his Blame half-sister fetched $330,000 from Bridlewood Farm at last year's Keeneland September sale. Seeking Gabrielle, who RNA'd for $90,000 carrying Nyquist at Keeneland November in 2002, was sold to Hinkle Farms for $100,000 carrying the Blame filly in utero at Keeneland November in 2013, was barren for 2015 and produced a colt by Flatter Mar. 25.

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