Despite an unblemished record at two and an Eclipse Award trophy on his mantle, Nyquist has had to earn the respect of many racing fans the hard way. His performances in the February 15 San Vicente Stakes (G2) and the April 2 Florida Derby (G2) now send him to the Spring Classics as the most accomplished unbeaten colt since Seattle Slew in 1977. How's that for respect?
In both his 2016 starts Nyquist seemingly had formidable foes to deal with. The speedy multiple graded winner Exaggerator awaited in the San Vicente and while the previously unbeaten multiple graded stakes winner Mohaymen had the home track advantage in the Florida Derby. Nyquist dispatched both colts with ease.
Exaggerator's trainer Keith Desormeaux, for one, was duly impressed.
"Goodness gracious," Desormeaux, said after the race. "Anybody not a believer in Nyquist now—that was an awesome race. To set those kinds of fractions and still finish in close to track record time for a 3-year-old in February? Wow. Hat's off to Nyquist."
Perhaps a narrow, wire-to-wire debut win in a 5F Maiden Special in early June is one of the reasons Nyquist has had an uphill battle to prove his quality and two-turn acumen. Many horses that race that early and that well at that distance don't train on to be serious Classics contenders. But he was certainly impressive in sweeping the subsequent 6.5F Best Pal Stakes (G2) and the 7F Del Mar Futurity (G1) last summer by a combined nine lengths.
Despite a victory in his two-turn debut, the FrontRunner Stakes (G1), the effort was largely panned by racing observers, this one included, as too slow on the teletimer and too pedestrian to the naked eye.
Post 13. Two bumps shortly after the break. At least five-wide on both turns. Those are all things Nyquist overcame in his Breeders' Cup Juvenile victory in which his believers were rewarded with a nearly 5-1 payoff on the undefeated colt. His fellow Californian Swipe ran a close second, further confirming the 2015 West Coast juvenile division form.
No matter how impressive the body of work a horse accumulates one season, there is always some question whether we see a better or worse version of the animal the following year. Nyquist has proved any doubts to be folly with his two impressive 2016 victories. With his Florida Derby score, Nyquist has now won Grade 1 races from 7 furlongs to a mile and one eighth and have been victorious over four different racetracks all over the country.
Nyquist is by the young sire sensation Uncle Mo, also an unbeaten Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award champion. We never got to see Uncle Mo's full potential as a runner as illness derailed his Classics aspirations and he was kept to one-turn events when he did make it back to the races in late summer of his sophomore season. Uncle Mo does descend from more of a middle distance sire-line. His sire, Indian Charlie won the Santa Anita Derby and placed third to Real Quiet and Victory Gallop in the 1998 Derby. Nyquist's grandsire, In Excess, won races like the Met Mile as well as the Suburban Handicap when that was race still a mile and a quarter. Uncle Mo is out of a mare by the Roberto grandson Arch, so there is some stamina influence there.
On the other side of the pedigree, Nyquist's dam, Seeking Gabrielle, is by Forestry out of a daughter of Seeking the Gold, two sires who on occasion sired Classic types but are more widely regarded as speed influences.
Nyquist was purchased by Reddam Racing last March at the Fasig-Tipton Two-Year-Old in Training sale for $400,000. That sale has produced other current Classics contenders like Los Alamitos Futurity/Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Mor Spirit, impressive Maiden & Allowance winner Zulu and Mucho Macho Man Stakes winner Awesome Speed.
Largely because of a $1 million bonus offered to a graduate of that sale who also wins this year's Florida Derby, Nyquist is targeted Gulfstream Park's signature race. Time will tell if he'll join Monarchos (2001), Barbaro (2006), Big Brown (2008) and Orb (2013) as Florida Derby/Kentucky Derby winners this century.