By Sid Fernando
Spendthrift purchased the breeding rights to Authentic before the Grade l Santa Anita Derby, and the $9 million kicker it agreed to pay Authentic's former ownership group for winning the Gl Kentucky Derby is indicative of the premium that's placed on a stallion prospect with North America's most prestigious Classic on his resume. A front-running colt, Authentic has the right type of sire behind him as well. He's by Spendthrift's flagship stallion Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday), who cranks out graded stakes winners like nobody's business, particularly sprinters and milers that are deadly up to a mile and a sixteenth. The stallion led the North American general sire list in 2019 and stood for $175,000 this year, and one of his first top sons to go to stud, Grade l winner Goldencents, also at Spendthrift, has started his career well enough–he was represented by Gll Alysheba S. winner By My Standards on the Derby undercard– to suggest that even brighter beginnings are in store for Authentic, his sire's best racing son.
Stud farms want their prized first-crop horses to fly out of the gates early with 2-year-old winners and black-type runners and end their first seasons with a Grade l winner or two atop the freshman sire list. Darley's Nyquist (Uncle Mo), who won the Derby in 2016, is on his way, currently leading all N.A. first-crop sires by progeny earnings after his daughter Vequist won the Gl Spinaway S. at Saratoga Sunday by 9 1/2 lengths. Another daughter, Lady Lilly, was third in the race. Before them, the Nyquist colt Gretzky the Great had won the Soaring Free S. at Woodbine in late August, putting Nyquist at the top of the list by number of black-type winners, too.
Like Authentic, Nyquist was also a fast colt who was probably better at shorter distances than a mile and a quarter, and he was more precocious than Authentic, who won his lone start last year. Nyquist, in contrast, won each of his five races at two, including three Grade l races: the Del Mar Futurity; FrontRunner S.; and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. At year's end, he was named the champion 2-year-old colt.
He carried his form into the spring, winning the seven-furlong Gll San Vicente S. at Santa Anita in a rapid 1:20.71 before taking the Gl Florida Derby at Gulfstream, which has turned into a better “sire-making race” than the Kentucky Derby itself. Since 1990, graduates of the race include proven and promising sires Unbridled, Unbridled's Song, Harlan's Holiday, Empire Maker, Scat Daddy, Quality Road, Dialed In, Take Charge Indy, and Constitution. In contrast, Street Sense and American Pharoah are the only Kentucky Derby winners who didn't win the Florida Derby during this span that are comparable, but note that American Pharoah, despite a bunch of graded winners already, is still searching for his first Grade l winner with his first crop now three.
Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby next, and in retrospect, he had some fine horses behind him that day, including subsequent Classic winners Exaggerator (2nd; Preakness) and Creator (13th, Belmont S.), Horse of the Year Gun Runner (3rd; Breeders' Cup Classic). Also included among Derby also-rans that day, Mohaymen (4th), Brody's Cause (7th), Mor Spirit (10th), Outwork (14th), and Whitmore (19th), among others.
Note that both Brody's Cause (Giant's Causeway), now at Spendthrift, and Outwork (Uncle Mo), at WinStar, were represented by black-type winners over the weekend as well, Brody's Cause with Glll Iroquois S. winner Sittin On Go at Churchill on the Derby undercard and Outwork with Samborella in the $150,000 Seeking the Ante S. at Saratoga a day earlier.
Arrogate, the colt who would be crowned champion 3-year-old of that year, was notably absent from the Derby field. In fact, on the day Nyquist won the Derby, Arrogate had made only one start, a third-place finish in a maiden special at Los Alamitos, and the careers of these two champions are studies in contrast. One was a fast and early developing colt whose career peaked as an undefeated Kentucky Derby winner of eight races, while the other made his name in 10-furlong races through the second half of his 3-year-old season and as an early 4-year-old before retiring as the leading N. American money earner. His first yearlings are selling now.
The Derby was the apex in Nyquist's career. He had three more starts, never won again, and retired to Darley for the 2017 breeding season with a record of eight wins from 11 starts and $5,189,200 in earnings, and he brought plenty of cachet to the table for commercial breeders at $40,000 as a champion 2-year-old, early spring 3-year-old, and Kentucky Derby winner–exactly the race form both breeders and buyers look for. And like Authentic, he's by the right kind of sire.
Nyquist was a member of Ashford-based Uncle Mo's first crop and led a group of seven black-type winners for Uncle Mo that made him the leading freshman sire of 2015. That remarkable crop would eventually yield 25 black-type winners from 157 named foals, an exceptional 16%, and four Grade l winners, including Gomo, Unbridled Mo, and Outwork in addition to Nyquist.
To date, Uncle Mo is represented by eight Grade 1 winners through six crops of racing age (including 2-year-olds of 2020) versus seven for Into Mischief through nine crops, though in fairness to the latter, his first four crops contained only a total of 140 named foals.
Both stallions are clicking in high gear now, and this year Into Mischief is comfortably atop the general sire list, with Uncle Mo in third place. Into Mischief leads all stallions with 24 black-type winners, but Uncle Mo leads by number of graded stakes winners, with 12. Uncle Mo stood for $125,000 this spring.
Like Into Mischief with Goldencents, Uncle Mo's sons are showing early life as stallions. Aside from Nyquist, with seven winners through Thursday afternoon, Outwork also has seven winners and a black-type winner and is in fifth place on the freshman list, and Uncle Mo's less-heralded New York-based son at Sequel, Laoban, is in 12th with four winners and a black-type winner as well.
Uncle Mo was an exceptional 2-year-old, a man among boys both in physique and race class. He was a champion at two, winning the Gl Champagne S. by almost five lengths in 1:34.51 and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a little over four lengths. Unlike Nyquist, he wasn't able to make the Derby and had a spotty record at three in an abbreviated campaign, but his subsequent success as a stallion has repaired his reputation as a racehorse and put him among the best stallions in the country.
Nyquist, therefore, has quite a bit going for him, and yearling buyers responded to the Darley stallion at the sales last year, making him the leading first-crop sire with an average price of $225,061–more than five times his stud fee–for 49 sold from 66 offered.
Thirteen of those 66 yearlings, or about 20%, were from A.P. Indy-line mares, and so far Nyquist's three stakes horses are from this group. Gretzky the Great, a $295,000 RNA, is from a Bernardini mare; Vequist, a $120,000 RNA, is from a Mineshaft mare; and Lady Lilly, a $280,000 sale, is out of a Pulpit mare. Uncle Mo himself has sired seven stakes winners on the cross, including Grade I winner Mo Town and two Grade II winners from Bernardini mares.
Because Darley also stands Bernardini, an exceptional broodmare sire for his age, this is a cross we're likely to see more of in the future, because, believe it or not, Gretzky the Great is so far the only foal of racing age by Nyquist from a Bernardini mare.
The title for leading freshman sire will probably come down to the Breeders' Cup races, as I noted in this space discussing Taylor Made's Not This Time two weeks ago. His daughter Princess Noor also became a Grade l winner Sunday, winning the Del Mar Debutante like an exceptional filly, and the matchup with Vequist will be highly anticipated.
Of course, between now and then a lot can and will happen, but Nyquist couldn't be in a better spot as the freshmen sires turn into the homestretch. He's leading.
Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.