Reddam Racing's Nyquist extended his unbeaten streak to four in Saturday's Grade 1 Frontrunner Stakes at Santa Anita Park, beating Swipe by three-quarters of a length but having to wait out an inquiry before the race became official because of an incident in deep stretch between the winner and runner-up. Hollywood Don was 5 3/4 lengths farther back in third, with Rare Candy fourth in the field of eight 2-year-olds contesting the Win and You're In Breeders' Cup Challenge race ensuring entry into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
The son of Uncle Mo, bred in Kentucky by Summerhill Farm, is trained by Doug O'Neill and was ridden to victory by Mario Gutierrez. The odds-on favorite, who was coming off an easy victory in the G1 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7, covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.89.
Go Long set the early fractions in the Frontrunner as Nyquist floated Mt Veeder wide into the first turn, then tracked the pacesetting Go Long through fractions of :23.04 for the opening quarter mile, :47.01 for the half and 1:12.47 for six furlongs.
Nyquist put his nose in front on the turn, briefly battling with Mt Veeder for the lead, but Kent Desormeaux guided Swipe to the rail at the top of the stretch and became the primary threat in the final furlong, after a mile clocking in 1:38.36. Gutierrez allowed Nyquist to drift in, brushing with Swipe and tightening things up for that rival, who never could get in front of the winner despite left-handed urging from Desormeaux. Stewards ruled the incident did not affect the outcome of the race.
Swipe previously finished second behind Nyquist in the G2 Best Pal at Del Mar on Aug. 8 and the Del Mar Futurity.
Nyquist was purchased by Dennis O'Neill, brother of the trainer, for $400,000 from the consignment of Niall Brennan Stables at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Sale of 2-year-olds in training. The colt was previously sold for $230,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and $180,000 as a weanling at the Keeneland November Mixed Sale.
Post-race quotes courtesy Santa Anita Park media office:
MARIO GUTIERREZ, NYQUIST, WINNER: “He's been on the lead in the past but he was tougher than I expected today. I was expecting him to be easier but he was tough, he was in the bridle. I adjusted though and it worked out in the end.
“It was good to have an exciting finish to make the race exciting. Nyquist, he likes to fight. In his first race, we went head-to-head with a horse of Peter Miller's. Nyquist doesn't like anybody to pass him and that's a good thing. He has a good mentality and I think that's why he stays undefeated.”
KENT DESORMEAUX, SWIPE, SECOND: “I got head and head with the winner, and he definitely knocked me off my feet, but he also re-surged. He's obviously undefeated for a reason. In hindsight, I wish I would have gone around. I think I would have won if I would have gone around.
“I think he's a really, really good horse. You know the hype around Nyquist, and he beat me by a lip, so I think if I went around, I would have won. I've always been very high on him.”
DOUG O'NEILL, NYQUIST, WINNER: Suggested he'd have to be satisfied with the win, the courage he showed, and getting a route the first time: “All those. Coming back as quick as he was, and for him to be in between a three-horse team going into the first turn, that really scared me. Most horses are going to really be in trouble in that setting, and he showed the class that he has to overcome that and still finish up strong.
“That stretch run was probably a treadmill test for the cardiologist. I guess I'm OK, but that was truly so exciting, but when you're 3-5 (actually 1-2) or whatever his odds were, you're thinking you're going to win by five (lengths) geared down, the jockey looking under his arm, all that stuff. This one, Mario really had to ride a smart race after the way it started and through the stretch. He did a great job.”
About the schedule for Nyquist: “We'll have to huddle up with Team Reddam and figure out a game plan. This wasn't exactly like the way we planned it. We were a little bit cocky before the race, but at the end of the day, this is what we wanted to do. We wanted to win and we wanted to see if he'd two-turn in his own back yard. It's so much easier to do that instead of shipping. Sometimes they get a little excited and all that stuff.
“Now with a two-turn win under his belt against the best 2-year-olds the West Coast has to offer, I think the plan will be for him to come out of it good and head back east in a few weeks, probably.”
KEITH DESORMEAUX, SWIPE, SECOND: “I thought he moved forwardly today. I told Kent to unsaddle him (during the stewards' inquiry) because it's hot out here and he ran hard. There wasn't enough banging or interference to cause a disqualification. He's danced every dance. We'll take a good luck at him and make sure he's all right and we'll look at the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile). Why not? This is what we all live for, right?”
PETER MILLER, HOLLYWOOD DON, THIRD: “First time on dirt and I thought he had a good trip. I thought the horse ran very well. Just the pace wasn't as fast as I thought; I thought the pace would be faster and hotter, but the horse kicked home good. I thought he ran very well.”
(On future possibilities) “Yes. We'll consider all of our options, including the Breeders' (Cup) Juvenile Dirt and the Turf.”
NOTES: Winning owner J. Paul Reddam is from Irvine, CA.
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