J. Paul Reddam's Nyquist retained his undefeated record in Monday's Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. The sophomore son of Uncle Mo had not raced since his victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 31, but tugged Mario Gutierrez to the lead early in the seven-furlong contest, going on to win by just over a length while stopping the clock in a rapid 1:20.71.
“We know he was going to be rank but I also believe in his talent,” said Gutierrez. “I wanted to fight with him as little as possible today, let him do his thing and you saw the results.”
Nyquist broke very sharply, and briefly allowed Sheikh of Sheikhs to take over the lead on the outside. Just before the quarter pole Nyquist thrust his neck in front, setting an early fraction of :22.50. Exaggerator was rated in third in the three-path. After a half-mile in :44.49, Denman's Call began moving up the rail from his position in fourth, as Exaggerator pulled Kent Desormeaux toward the lead along the outside.
Going just a bit wide on the final turn, Nyquist left room for Denman's Call to charge up the rail just as he was approached by Exaggerator on the outside. Passing the three-quarter mark in 1:08.56, Nyquist didn't have to be asked by Gutierrez, turning back a very game Exaggerator and going on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. His final time was the third-fastest clocking in the history of the San Vicente. Denman's Call had to settle for third, while Sheikh of Sheikhs faded to fourth.
“You'd have to break the track record to win the race, so that's telling for both horses,” said Desormeaux, who rode Exaggerator. “They're both very talented. I had a dream trip. The winner was too good.”
Bred in Kentucky by Summerhill Farm, Nyquist was a $400,000 2-year-old purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Sale. The son of winning Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle, Nyquist's record stands at a perfect six-for-six, with earnings of over $1.7 million. The Eclipse-Award winning 2-year-old remains on top of the point standings for the 2016 Kentucky Derby with 30, despite no points being offered in the San Vicente.
“Exaggerator is a nice horse, and for him (Nyquist) to hold him off the way he did showed you how talented he is,” said O'Neill. “There were some anxious moments when I saw the fractions, and you're better off on the outside tracking than on the inside being tracked. The post (one) wasn't an advantage at all and I think we got pushed by the bottom horse (Sheikh of Sheikhs) a little bit early. But Mario is smart. He knew what he had.”
O'Neill has suggested that the Florida Derby may be the next stop, since there is a bonus involved for a horse purchased in Florida. Reddam agreed, though both are taking a wait-and-see approach: “When we talked about it at the beginning of the year, we said we'd go to the San Vicente and the Florida Derby because we liked the timing,” Reddam said. “I think Doug will change his mind a couple times between now and then, because there's the temptation to stay home. We love Santa Anita. But we'll see. We just want to take it in stride. It was a good first step.”
Watch the race replay here:
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