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He’s unbeaten in three starts, and hasn’t been challenged in two impressive stakes victories. His pedigree suggests he’s a sprinter, but his talent is undeniable and has racing fans excited about his future.
His name is Nyquist, and he could not have been much more impressive while winning the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) on September 7th at Del Mar.
Racing for the team of Reddam Racing, Doug O’Neill, and jockey Mario Gutierrez–the same team that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with I’ll Have Another–Nyquist got off to a quick start in the seven-furlong race and found himself sitting in second place early on, just to the outside and 1 1/2 lengths behind pace-setting Annie’s Candy. Rockin Bayou was four-wide in third after hopping at the start, while the promising maiden winner Blameitonthelaw was racing a close fourth, just a neck behind Nyquist after an opening quarter-mile in :22.44 seconds.
But with four horses racing in a line down the backstretch, the pace began to quicken substantially, and when Nyquist moved up to challenge for the lead, Annie’s Candy was forced to run the half-mile in :44.54, meaning that the second quarter-mile was timed in a blistering :22.10. During that timeframe, Nyquist gained a length on the leader, then seized command and began to extend his advantage. Blameitonthelaw and Rockin Bayou tried their best to keep up, but they were no match for Nyquist, who led by three lengths passing the eighth pole before cruising across the wire by 3 3/4 lengths while eased up. The final time wasn’t blazing–just 1:23.28–but the fact that Nyquist was able to press such a testing pace and still win decisively is a testament to talent.
There’s no doubt that Nyquist is a very good two-year-old–possibly the best in the country–but can he continue his dominance in longer races? That’s a trickier question. Nyquist’s final three-furlong time of :38.74 in the Del Mar Futurity was rather slow, but that was after he pressed the fast pace. In the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) last month, when allowed to run the half-mile in a more modest :46.65, he ran the final 2.5 furlongs in :30.19, a very sharp fraction.
On the other hand, Nyquist’s pedigree might be geared toward sprinting, and not two-turn events like the Triple Crown races.. His sire is Uncle Mo, the champion two-year-old male of 2010. Uncle Mo had no trouble handling two turns in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but as a three-year-old, he was at his best going one-turn, disappointing when stretched out in distance for the Wood Memorial and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Additionally, Nyquist’s dam never won beyond six furlongs, and Nyquist’s damsire–Forestry–was a talented sprinter that won the King’s Bishop Stakes in 1999.
Time will tell if Nyquist can stretch out in distance, but we should get a good idea of his potential if he starts in the September 26th FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, the next logical stop on the road to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. If distance doesn’t prove to be his strong suit, then it’s possible that Swipe–the late-closing runner-up in both the Del Mar Futurity and the Best Pal–could be able to turn the tables. As a son of Birdstone out of a Grand Slam mare, Swipe looks like a promising candidate to continue improving with more time and distance, and could end up being better-suited to longer races than his two-time conqueror.
It might also pay to keep an eye on Blameitonthelaw, who endured a very tricky trip racing in between horses while chasing a fast pace. He battled on surprisingly well in the homestretch to finish third, and with a better trip next time out, I think we’ll see him turn in an improved performance.